Europe is experiencing record forest fires

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Europe is experiencing record forest fires

Wildfire conditions in Europe are intensifying, just as Europe experiences an unprecedented heatwave. Fires in parts of France, Spain, and Portugal have already destroyed more land in 2022 than in all of 2021. To date, 517,881 hectares—or the equivalent areas of Trinidad and Tobago—have been destroyed.

Jesus San Miguel, the coordinator of the European Union’s EFFIS satellite monitoring service, told AFP in an interview that “The situation is much worse than expected, even if we were expecting temperature anomalies with our long-term forecasts. The fire season used to be concentrated from July to September. Now we are getting longer seasons and very intense fire. We expect climate change to create higher fire conditions in Europe.”

San Miguel said there could be worse to come, adding that the hallmarks of global heating were all over this year’s fire season. “Ignition is caused by people (but) the heatwave is critical, and clearly linked to climate change,” he said.

EFFIS said that Europe could end 2022 with more land burned by area than 2017, currently the worst recorded year for wildfires with nearly 1,000,000 hectares lost.

Rising fire risk

EFFIS said close to 40,000 hectares of forest in France have been lost to fire so far this year, more than the 30,000 that burned there in 2021.

Spain — where more than 500 people died during a 10-day heatwave this month — has seen 190,000 hectares go up in smoke this year, compared with 85,000 last year.

EFFIS said that Europe could end 2022 with more land burned by area than 2017, currently the worst recorded year for wildfires with nearly 1,000,000 hectares lost.

In all of 2021, 470,359 hectares of forest were lost to fires in Europe, mainly in Italy and Greece.

Yet those two countries have had a relatively good year in terms of wildfires: Italy has lost 25,000 hectares compared with more than 150,000 in 2021 and Greece has lost 7,800 compared with 130,000 a year ago.

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