Heatwave to return on Thursday

Heatwave to return on Thursday

A second heatwave will hit Greece from Thursday until Sunday, pushing temperatures as high as 44 Celsius (111.2 Fahrenheit). But even when the heatwave (defined as temperatures at least equal to 39C) recedes, temperatures will remain high for the following several days, meteorologists warn.

By Sunday, July 23, large parts of the country will have experienced a heatwave for 12 non-consecutive days since July 5, one of the longest on record.

The feeling of discomfort is compounded by the fact that minimum temperatures are also high (at least 26C).

Of the 12 long heatwaves – at least eight days long – recorded since July 1987, when the heat claimed over 1,300 lives in Athens alone, 10 have occurred since 2000, with three coming in the past three years. From a once-in-a-decade event, long heatwaves appear to be becoming annual, a clear sign of climate change.

“We at the University of Athens have estimated that a 0.5C increase in the average annual temperature in especially vulnerable areas such as the Mediterranean results in 30 more days of high temperatures and five more days of heatwave conditions,” says Efthymis Lekkas, professor of tectonic dynamics, applied geology and natural disaster management.

Furthermore, he adds, a forest fire, a more frequent event as temperatures rise, makes floods seven times as likely, soil erosion four times as likely and landslides three times. This enhances desertification, which, in turn, enhances temperature rises, a vicious cycle that seems to be accelerating, Lekkas says.

At least the heatwave will see winds moderate. But vegetation is still so dry that the risk of wildfires and the difficulty in containing them will remain high. The fire that destroyed the northern half of the island of Evia in August 2021 happened with moderate winds.

Friday will be the high point of the heatwave, with 44C expected in the interior of the regions of Central Greece and Thessaly and even some islands seeing 40C.

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