Heatwave: Greece on “full alert”, mercury rising in the United States

Greece is on “high alert” for a heat wave on Saturday and temperatures are expected to top 44 degrees Celsius this weekend, while a record heat wave in the southern United States is expected to sweep across the country.

In Greece, all archaeological sites including Athens’ famous Acropolis will keep their doors closed during the hottest hours until Sunday, the culture ministry announced.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis warned, “We need full vigilance (…) because the difficult times are not over yet.”

“We are facing a new heat wave” and “potentially strengthening winds” that have fueled several violent fires around the capital since Monday, he said.

The temperature in the center of the country is expected to be up to 45°C on Saturday.

According to the National Observatory of Athens, the absolute record in the capital was set in June 2007 with 44.8 °C. At the national level, it was established in July 1977 with 48°C in Elefsina near Athens.

“I’m used to high temperatures. Every summer we have these, but what’s difficult this year is that the heat waves are coming one after the other,” admits Christos Boyatzis, who polishes the shoes of businessmen in the chic Kolonaki district.

A cloud of smoke rises over Dervenochoria, northwest of Athens, on July 19, 2023 (AFP/Archive – Spiros Baklis)

“What worries us is that forecasts indicate a further rise in temperatures next week. Then there will be a heat wave lasting more than fifteen days, the longest ever recorded in Greece,” Kostas Lagovardos, research director at the Institute for Environmental Research and Sustainable Development at the National Observatory of Athens, told AFP.

– Progress in the United States –

Across the Atlantic, nearly 80 million Americans will experience temperatures of 41°C and above this weekend, alerted the US Weather Services (NWS).

Temperatures could soar to over 46°C in Phoenix, Arizona (southwest), which is currently experiencing the longest heat wave on record: On Friday, the mercury exceeded 43°C for the 22nd day in a row.

A fire broke out at a propane storage site on Thursday, with gas tanks exploding.

“On a hot day like this, these propane tanks expand with the heat, they become real missiles,” a local fire official told local television KPHO, sending debris up to more than 450 metres.

500km away, in California, Death Valley and its hottest temperatures on the planet attract tourists, tourists wanting to have their picture taken with screens displaying more extreme temperatures.

A sign shows a temperature of 43 degrees Celsius in Phoenix, Arizona, on July 16, 2023 (Getty Images North America/AFP/Archive - Brandon Bell)
A sign shows a temperature of 43 degrees Celsius in Phoenix, Arizona, on July 16, 2023 (Getty Images North America/AFP/Archive – Brandon Bell)

Some are waiting for the all-time record on Earth – 56.6°C recorded here in 1913 but disputed by some experts – to be broken.

A 71-year-old man died earlier this week, and rangers at Death Valley National Park suspect that “the heat played a part” in his death, making it the second such incident of the year.

For the rest of July, the heat wave should move toward the center of the country, the Rockies and the Great Plains of the Midwest, according to the American Agency for Oceanic and Atmospheric Observations (NOAA).

And July is on track to break the record for the warmest month ever recorded on Earth, not just in the time the measurements were taken, but in “hundreds, if not thousands, of years,” Gavin Schmidt, NASA’s chief climatologist, told reporters. And it’s not just because of El Niño, the cyclical weather phenomenon that originates in the Pacific Ocean and causes global temperatures to rise, he said.

For the expert, extreme temperatures will persist because “we continue to emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere”.

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