Climate change turning up heat in Europe's forests

Disaster caused by heat waves destroys green areas across France, Spain, Italy, Portugal.

Climate change turning up heat in Europe's forests

Heat waves in Europe dialed up by climate change are leading to the most intense forest fires of recent years across the continent.

Along with the surging temperatures, decreasing rainfall is making the fires even more dangerous.

Since July, conflagrations have destroyed record expanses of land in France, Spain, Italy, and Portugal.


Fires that have been burning since the beginning of summer have wiped out thousands of hectares of land in northern, central, and southwestern Spain.

The country has witnessed 37 major forest blazes since the beginning of 2022, reducing more than 200,000 hectares (494,000 acres) of land to ash.


Wide swathes of forestland in Portugal have been destroyed in wildfires that erupted in the central Covilha region on Aug. 6 and in the northeastern Linhares province of the Guarda region on Aug. 11.

About 17,000 hectares of UNESCO-protected land was also wiped out by the flames.

The country suffered its hottest month of July in 100 years, costing it a total of 79,000 hectares of forested lands.


Some residential areas near the northeastern Italian town Savogna d'Isonzo, close to the border with Slovenia, have been evacuated due to a blaze that started on July 27.

At least 120 people left the northwestern Savona province in due to the forest fire on Aug. 9.

In the fires that erupted on July 24, a total of 27,883 hectares of forestland was harmed.


France has been experiencing one of its worst droughts in 70 years.

The government has also faced difficulty dealing with forest fires raging since late July.

To help stem the spread of the flames in the southern and southwestern parts of the country, hundreds of fire fighters have come to France from Germany, Romania, Poland, Austria, and Greece.

Even with the international assistance, the fires could only be contained last Sunday and highways were opened after weeks of closure.

At least 57,600 hectares of green areas have turned into ash due to the fires.

Extreme heat and drought may now become common in France, the National Scientific Research Center (CNRS) warned, adding that water supply could become a major issue in the summer from now on.

Europe 'turned into a flint'

Prolonged heat waves and insufficient rainfall have "turned Europe into flint," and allowed fires spread more rapidly, according to the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS).

While 660,000 hectares of land have burned across the continent since the beginning of 2022, the EFFIS stressed that this represented an area twice the size of Luxembourg.

Statistical forecasts by the EFFIS predict that the number of forest fires this year in just Spain, Romania, Italy, France, and Croatia will exceed the average annual number of fires between 2006 and 2021.

They also show that the number of fires in France could reach 269 by the end of this year, while they may rise to 361 in Italy, 741 in Romania, and 381 in Spain.

Forest fires in Europe have also raised the amount of carbon emissions across the continent to the highest levels in recent years.

Most carbon emissions since 2003

The EU's Copernicus satellite monitoring system has recorded a spike in carbon emissions, especially in France, Spain, and Portugal.

Satellite images show intense smoke billowing from the fires in France, especially last week.