According to statistics from the European Union’s Joint Research Centre, wildfires sweeping throughout Europe this summer have burnt the second-largest area on record, despite the region being just halfway through its regular fire season.
This year, significant fires have ravaged a dozen European nations, forcing people to flee and damaging homes and businesses. Countries like as Italy, Spain, and France are still at high danger of fire.
According to the statistics, wildfires have destroyed 600,731 hectares across EU nations so far this year. This is the second-highest amount for any year since records started in 2006. In 2017, 987,844 hectares of forest were burnt.
The burnt area this year is more than twice the size of Luxembourg. By August, no other year in the dataset had witnessed such a large proportion of burnt land in Europe.
The normal fire season in the Mediterranean area lasts from June to September.
Climate change is causing flames to spread quicker, burn longer, and rage more ferociously by increasing hot and dry conditions. Hotter weather saps moisture from vegetation, converting it to dry fuel – a problem compounded in certain regions by reduced workforces to remove this vegetation.
The major fires in France and Portugal in early July, according to Victor Resco de Dios, professor of forest engineering at Spain’s Lleida University, were “extremely unusual” and highlighted how climate change is forcing the fire season to start earlier and persist longer.
“Today’s fires in the Mediterranean can no longer be extinguished… Large fires are getting bigger and bigger,” he warned.
The JRC data only includes wildfires larger than 30 hectares, thus the amount burnt would be significantly greater if smaller flames were included.
Most summers in southern European nations such as Portugal and Greece, but rising temperatures are bringing severe wildfire danger north, with Germany, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic among those affected this season.
Some actions, such as lighting controlled fires that imitate low-intensity fires in natural ecosystem cycles, may assist to reduce blazes.
However, experts agree that unless greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change are drastically reduced, heatwaves, wildfires, and other climatic consequences would intensify considerably.