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Forest Fire in the parish of Puente Sampayo, Pontevedra (Galicia, Spain), on 10 August 2016. Date	10 August 2016, 22:16 Source	Incendio forestal en Puente Sampayo Author	Contando Estrelas from Vigo, España / Spain
20 Jun 2022

Heatwaves and forest fires in Europe - Floods in Bangladesh - extreme weather continues to plague the globe in June

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Forest fire season has started with full force in Southern Europe. 500 firefighters are struggling to contain several forest fires in Spain, and thousands are being evacuated from their homes throughout the country. 

Photo taken from a Greek firefighting helicopter of the fires near Athens on June 4th.
Photo taken from a Greek firefighting helicopter of the fires near Athens on June 4th. 

Greece already had their forest fire season start in early June, when a forest fire started near Athens during a heatwave that brought humidity levels down to 30%. Several buildings were lost and 432 hectares of land were destroyed before the fire in Greece could be contained. With last year´s near catastrophic events near Athens in June and August,  the Greek fire authorities are now preparing themselves for what could be an even more severe fire season during 2022.   

Italy is currently experiencing almost 40 degrees Celsius / 104 F, and many other countries in the south are struggling with unusually high temperatures for the season. Considering we are only in the beginning summer, many now fear what is to come during summer and early autumn, when temperatures and wildfires are normally already very high.  

In Spain, 10 000 hectares were still burning on Sunday June 19th. in northwestern  Spain,  in total more than 25,000 hectares of forest and agricultural land have been affected by several forest fires burning in the area. The fires have forced hundreds of people to flee their homes, but as the situation has eased slightly, residents in about twenty villages were able to return on Sunday.

The temperatures in Spain had dropped somewhat on Saturday, however the fire brigades were still fighting to put out several fires. Smaller forest fires are still raging in the regions of Catalonia and Navarre. The worst affected area is the town of Zamora on the border with Portugal in western Spain.

Containing the fires is made more difficult due to dry and hot weather and also strong winds. 

 

Started last Wednesday

On Wednesday June 15, several active fires were reported in Catalonia, near the towns of Corbera d'Ebre, Castellar de la Ribera and Artesa de Segre, according to the newspaper El País.The fires have followed upon weeks without rain, and temperatures exceeding 35 degrees Celsius / 95 F . 

Catalonia's regional government describes the situation as "extremely serious" and predicts that the summer will be "very complicated". The fire brigade fears up to 50,000 hectares will be involved in the fires in the region, according to the newspaper El Mundo.

 

Warmest in 70 years
Other parts of Spain have also been affected by forest fires during the summer. On June 8, 2,000 people were evacuated from the village of Benahavis in the municipality of Malaga.

According to El País, the country is experiencing the warmest weather in June days since 1950. Lleida, one of the municipalities in Catalonia that is most affected, had 41 degrees C / 106 F on Friday. 

On Friday morning, the Catalan Fire Brigade announced that three fires have stabilized, however the dry, hot and windy conditions make the fire hard to stop from spreading. 

 

Extreme weather in other parts of the world in June

In Bangladesh and India, millions of people have been evacuated due to heavy monsoon rain and flooding. It has rained for weeks, however in the last few days the situation has intensified. Many rivers are now overflowing. The situation is reported to be particularly difficult near the river  Brahmaputra which runs through all of Bangladesh and the Indian state of Assam. 3000 villages are affected by flooding, according to local authorities.

I is hard to know the exact number of casualties, however a scan of the numbers reported by several larger international news services, at least 60 people have died in the area. Material damage is even harder to estimate. IN Assam alone, the hoes belonging to two million people were under water in Sunday.  

A massive rescue effort is now underway. The military has been called in and is using large inflatable rafts to evacuate people from the rising water. The weather services are now indicating that the rain wil lighten up in the next few days which would ease the situation. 

 

Heatwaves in Africa,  South Asia and in the United States 

Mid June, there was a heatwave in Pakistan. 51 degrees Celsius / 124 F was recorded  in the city of Jacobabad on June 14. 

Northern Africa is also extremely warm for the season, and in Arizona in the US, a heat wave has also brought out of control forest fires. 

Intense heat  over a few weekend days is considered to have killed thousands of cattle in  the US state of Kansas in mid June.   

"The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is aware of at least 2,000 cattle deaths that occurred in the southwest part of Kansas," Matt Lara, the agency's communications director, told NPR who reported on the story on Thursday.

Temperatures quickly rose  in Kansas in the past week, blasting past 100 degrees (approaching 40 degrees Celsius) Some of the worst heat struck Haskell County in the southwest. The heat rose  from a moderate high of 79.9 degrees F  on June 9 to 101.1 degrees just two days later, according to weather data from Kansas State University.

Conditions also became very dry in Haskell, with relative humidity falling from nearly 80% to less than 24%, with zero precipitation over a seven-day stretch. The  heat was  so intense that even four inches beneath the soil's surface, the temperature reached nearly 92 degrees F / 33 degrees C. 

 

Unusually cold weather in the Western part of the Americas brought hurricanes and rain

The weather pattern La Niña has been creating other kinds of weather related problems from the Caribbean Island and all the way up the coast to Western Canada. Spring has been usually wet and cold for the season, and hurricanes have been a problem. 

On June 4, two people or more died in a hurricane in Cuba's capital Havana in the tail end of  Hurricane Agatha. Heavy rains brought flooding to the area, according to BBC. 2000 people in the capital region were evacuated and 50 000 people were out of electricity. 

On May 30th, Hurricane Agatha killed 9 people in Mexico. 

The Interior of the western Canadian province of British Columbia is now also preparing for the rivers overflowing. Only a year ago, at the end of June and early July, the province experienced a heat wave which killed over 700 people. Only months later, in November 2021, large areas flooded causing hundreds of homes to be destroyed and thousands of farm animals to drown.  

This year, spring has instead come late to British Columbia and temperatures have rarely been above 20 degrees C, and often as low as 12 with unusually large amounts of rain for the entire spring and early summer season.  

 

Photo Credits: 

Cover Photo:(Above) Wikipedia Commons License. Forest Fire in the parish of Puente Sampayo, Pontevedra (Galicia, Spain), on 10 August 2016. Source: Incendio forestal en Puente Sampayo 

Author: Contando Estrelas from Vigo, España / Spain