- By Thomas Mackintosh
- BBC News
Large swaths of southern Europe continue to suffer from record heat as wildfires rage across the continent.
Temperatures reached a maximum of 46.3C in Sicily on Tuesday and crews battled fires in Greece and the Swiss Alps.
Most major Italian cities are on red alert, meaning the extreme heat poses a health risk to everyone, not just vulnerable groups.
Scientists say climate change is making heat waves longer, more intense and more frequent.
Across the world, millions of people are affected by extreme weather conditions; from rising temperatures in the United States and China to heavy rainfall in East Asia.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) says heatwaves will get worse in coming years and extreme weather highlights the need for increased climate action.
“These events will continue to intensify and the world must prepare for even more intense heatwaves,” said John Nairn, senior adviser on extreme heat at the UN agency.
Since Monday, Greece has witnessed several wildfires breaking out across the country, including one that led to the evacuation of 1,200 children of a summer camp.
The most serious fire in Greece is currently occurring in the Dervenochoria region, north of Athens, where smoke can be seen billowing. satellite images.
Other fires continue to rage in the towns of Loutraki – a coastal town close to the city of Corinth – and in Kouvaras, south of the capital.
“Our main concern is to protect human life,” said fire department spokesperson Yannis Artopios.
Elsewhere in Europe, crews in Switzerland are battling a forest fire near the village of Bitsch in Valais canton, which authorities say broke out on Monday afternoon and spread “explosively” in the night.
Another wildfire on the Spanish island of La Palma, which broke out on Saturday, destroyed 20 houses.
But cooler nighttime temperatures and higher air humidity levels helped firefighters gain the upper hand in battling the blaze and bringing it under control.
Red alerts, warning the population of a very high health risk due to the intense heat, remain in force in most of Italy, Spain, Greece and parts of the Balkans.
Official maximum temperatures for Tuesday have not yet been confirmed, but forecast results showed a maximum of 45.3°C in Figueres in northwest Spain, 44.5°C in Bauladu on the the island of Sardinia and 46.3°C in Licata in Sicily.
The highest temperature ever recorded in Europe was recorded in August 2021, when the mercury reached 48.8°C (119.8°F) in the Palermo region of Sicily.
Extreme temperatures have also hit other regions of the globe, including the United States and China.
More than 80 million people in the western and southern states of the United States are under alerts for a “widespread and oppressive” heat wave.
Temperatures in California’s Death Valley reached a near-record 52C (125.6F) on Sunday, while on Monday the Arizona state capital Phoenix tied its record of 18 consecutive days above 43°C (109.4F).
China provisionally broke its all-time highest temperature record on Sunday when it recorded 52.2°C in the western region of Xinjiang, according to the British Met Office.
Also in Asia, on the east coast of China, torrential rains caused by Typhoon Talim displaced thousands of people.
Talim is heading to Vietnam where 30,000 people in the storm’s path have moved to safer territory.
Leading British scientist Dr Frederieke Otto of Imperial College London told the BBC that “what we are seeing at the moment is exactly what we would expect in a world where we are still burning fuels fossils.
Humans are “100% behind” the trend of rising global temperatures, she explains.
The International Energy Agency said there could be no new oil, gas or coal projects if governments were serious about tackling climate change.
Scientists say Europe in particular is warming faster than many climate models predict.
“There is a feeling that the situation is getting out of control,” explains Hannah Cloke, professor at the University of Reading.
“We have a lot of work to do to figure out exactly what’s going on. These heat waves are scary… We know it’s going to be truly deadly.”
She said more than 61,000 people died from heat in Europe last year, and this year it would be the same.
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