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A Canadair CL-215 water bomber plane dropping a load pf water on a forest fire. Photo: Wikipedia Commons
24 May 2023

Europe is preparing for a 2023 with extremely hot weather, droughts and record forest fires

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2022 was a year of weather records in Europe last year. The summer was record hot with temperatures above 45 degrees C, with numerous heat related deaths, drought and fires as the unfortunate result. The predictions for 2023 so far is towards another record year of heatwaves.

The 2022 annual report from the EU's environmental monitoring program Copernicus shows that scientists believe the extreme heat will get even worse in southern Europe - Warning for drought this summer are already out. 

Britain recorded summer temperatures of exceeding 40 degrees C  for the first time ever, during  July last year. Britain´s heatwave was only one of many and persistent across western and southern Europe last summer: the highest temperature measured  was in Portugal, at 47 degrees C.

 

Photo Credit:
A Canadair CL-215 water bomber plane dropping a load of water on a forest fire. Photo: Wikipedia Commons 

 

15,000 Europeans died from heat related stress in summer 2022

The number of days that were  experienced as "uncomfortably hot" in southern Europe hit a new record number according to Copernicus (days with "strong heat stress" where it feels like it's over 38 degrees). According to the WHO, at least 15,000 people died because of the heat in Europe.

The trend is towards more and more of these uncomfortably hot days.

"The report highlights alarming changes in our climate, including the hottest summer ever recorded in Europe", says Carlo Buontempo, director of Copernicus Climate Change.

It is already very dry in Spain and Italy, even after some limited snowfall during the winter. Many fear a repeat of last year's drought, which hit agriculture hard. Even with the recent flooding in Italy, groundwater levels and general water levels for the country as a whole, are low. 

"The situation is serious, the reserves have not been replenished in, for example, Spain. The snow cover in the Alps has been poor. There is a risk that there will be similar or worse conditions than last year if there is not much precipitation this spring", says Samantha Burgess, deputy director of Copernicus.

 

Could exceed 50 degrees C

Europe's highest recorded temperature of all time was in Sicily in 2021 (48.8° C). However,  with rising average temperatures, it may be a matter of time before Europe surpasses 50 degrees C,  according to Copernicus. 

"We cannot say for sure there will be record heat in 2023, but with higher concentrations of greenhouse gases, more warm years are likely, says Samantha Burgess.

 

Greatest risk in Southern Europe - 2 billion Euros to support Spain through the summer season

Mainly southern Europe is preparing for an extreme summer of continued drought and water shortages.

In Spain, a historic support package of over 2 billion euros was recently agreed upon on May 11 to support agriculture and industry after the country's driest April ever recorded. Spain has also decided to ban all work outdoors when authorities deem the temperatures to be dangerously hot.  

France's water supply will have decreased by up to 40 percent by 2050, according to the country's President Emmanuel Macron, who is investing heavily in securing the country's water.

France has a high number of swimming pools (allegedly 1 pool per 38 inhabitant), and authorities are looking at ways to introduce restrictions on water use. In Southern France, some serious new rules have been introduced: Car washing and above ground pool have been banned in some areas in order to save water.

In Paris, authorities are preparing the city by creating more shade and green spaces to keep the city cool. 

 

Too much water just as devastating as too little - trades asphalt for greenery

Just like in Italy the Belgian city of Dendermonde, is working to protect itself against flooding with a radical new move: Asphalted areas and streets with cobble stones are torn up to be replaced by more green spaces. The idea is for excess water to have a faster and better way to be absorbed by the ground than with traditional hard surfaces.