Heat waves, floods are here to stay

Extreme weather phenomena such as the blistering temperatures of last summer and recent torrential rain will recur ever more frequently as global warming continues to adversely affect our environment, scientists told a conference in Athens yesterday. Authorities must step up measures aimed at curbing the damage wreaked by climate change but must also prepare to tackle the social and economic fallout of extreme weather conditions, experts told the summit, organized by the National Center for Public Administration and Local Government (NCPALG) and Athens’s National Observatory. «We are experiencing a significant period of drought which will continue for the next 50 years,» the observatory’s president, Christos Zerefos, told Kathimerini. He added that it was snow rather than rain that restored the water table, as rainwater runs back into the sea, but noted that snowfall is fast dwindling. Rising temperatures are one of the main problems we face in Greece, experts agreed, with exceptionally hot summers like the one we experienced this year likely to recur. Last January was the second warmest since 1936 while the top temperature this summer – 44.8 Celsius (112.6 Fahrenheit) – is the highest ever recorded in Greece. In addition, temperatures rose above 37C (98.6F) on 26 days – another record. Unfortunately these records are likely to be broken soon, according to experts. Interior Minister Pro-kopis Pavlopoulos said the government was doing all it could to tackle the problems: upgrading the General Secretariat for Civil Protection, producing digital charts to improve its response to natural disasters and making use of satellite images from the European Space Agency. In a related development yesterday, the results of a new study showed that Athens, Bucharest and Tel Aviv have the highest concentration of air pollution particles. The international study confirmed previous results showing that PM 2.5 and PM 10 particles can reduce life expectancy by several months.