Temperatures challenge all-time records in Europe as wildfires rage in Greece, Turkey
Relief from intense and record-setting heat in southeast Europe is still days away, and AccuWeather meteorologists warn the prolonged warmth will continue to fuel dangerous wildfires across parts of the parched continent.
Fires have scorched large portions of southwest Turkey during the end of July and the start of August. At least eight people have been killed by the flames, while many others have suffered injuries, according to Reuters.
Among the dead are two firefighters who were killed on Saturday, CNN reported, citing Turkey’s Agriculture and Forestry Ministry.
Over 100 fires across Turkey during the past week have already been contained, though a number of fires in southwestern parts of the country remain out of control.
One of the fires burned near the popular resort community of Bodrum, which led to the evacuation of over 1,000 people by boat as the flames neared the coast.
|A satellite image of the eastern Mediterranean Sea from Friday, July 30, 2021, shows smoke from wildfires across southwest Turkey. (Photo/NASA/WORLDVIEW)|
Fires have also charred parts of southern Italy, Greece and Cyprus as intense heat and dry conditions remain in place across the region.
A wildfire near an industrial part of Athens quickly spread on Tuesday which disrupted rail travel and closed a portion of the national motorway, Reuters reported. According to local media, 80 children were safely evacuated from a camp near the fire. The fire was the worst of 81 wildfires that broke out in Greece within the span of 24 hours, The Associated Press reported.
The setup that led to the intense heat across southeast Europe included a strong area of high pressure in the upper levels of the atmosphere that has remained over the Balkans, allowing a heat dome to form, according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Alyssa Smithmyer.
Much of eastern Europe had temperatures average 5-10 degrees Fahrenheit (3-6 degrees Celsius) above normal for the month of July. During this time, parts of southern Greece and southwest Turkey reported no rainfall.
“A deficit in rainfall from dry weather earlier in the summer exacerbated the temperatures further as the dry surface heated up much more easily than what moist soil would,” Smithmyer said.
Temperatures in parts of Athens neared 110 F (43 C) on Tuesday. The current record for continental Europe stands at 118.4 F (48 C); that temperature record was set in Athens on July 10, 1997, according to the World Meteorological Organization. Due to the extreme heat, authorities in Greece closed the Acropolis and other ancient sites during afternoon hours, the AP reported. The closures were in effect from noon to 5 p.m., which is typically the hottest part of the day.
The high temperature in Trikala, Greece, was able to rise into the mid-110s F (~46 C) on Monday.
Temperatures can soar to near 116 F (47 C) across the hottest parts of central Greece.
Even during the second half of the week as temperatures abate slightly, it will still be dangerously hot for outdoor activities.
“Conditions look to remain very hot for much of the week, and will continue to rival record-high temperatures,” said Smithmyer. A break from the intense heat won’t occur until late this week and into the weekend, she added.
The storm bringing the relief in temperatures will also bring much-needed showers and thunderstorms to the central and northern Balkans.
Unfortunately, no rainfall is expected across Greece and southern Turkey through at least the end of the week and potentially through the middle of August. AccuWeather forecasters say this will keep the wildfire threat very high and can lead to additional rapidly spreading and large fires.
“Conditions for the second half of August may still remain hot and above normal, but patterns hint towards slightly above-normal temperatures rather than the extreme heat being experienced currently,” said Smithmyer.