Subject: Viridian Note 00376: Europe Burns
- Key concepts:
- Record-setting heat waves,
massive forest fires, droughts, climate change
- Attention Conservation Notice:
- Is the human
race too stupid to live? This mayhem should be
front-page news every day. 2,349 words of
a whole continent in heavy weather.
French nuclear power plant melting from greenhouse heat.
Same story, second verse.
Not just worse than a weapon of mass destruction — lots worse. After all, a big bomb will blow up and then stop exploding, but with a trendline like this, imagine next year's weather in Europe.
"Britain bakes, Europe burns. Is this proof of global
By Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor
"05 August 2003
"If it isn't proof of global warming at last, it certainly
looks like it. As much of Europe burns like a furnace and
rivers run dry across the continent, Britain is bracing
itself for its own record temperature.
"Sometime tomorrow, in southern England or the
Midlands, the mercury in the thermometer may pass 37.1C,
which became the national record when registered in
Cheltenham on 3 August 1990. That centigrade peak translates as 98.8 Fahrenheit, so the remarkable figure for Britain of 99 or even 100F — is on the cards.
"'We reckon there's a 20 per cent chance it will
happen, but in any case it's going to get very very
close,' said Andy Yeatman of the Met Office.
"A record would be hugely significant — a three-figure
Fahrenheit temperature for the UK would be breaking
psychological as well as new meteorological ground as it
would give many people for the first time the perception
that global warning is a real, not a theoretical
phenomenon — and that it is happening to them. (((I hate
to think that people are so dumb that it requires this
kind of rank numerology to interest them in their own
fates.))) "If we do see a record, and possibly 100F,
meteorological scientists will not directly attribute it
to climate change — natural climate variability is too
great for a single heat episode to be put down to global
warming. (((What would that take to call it "climate
change," exactly? How about if Tony Blair explodes like a
Roman candle when he steps outside Parliament onto London't steaming streets?))) But they will certainly say
it is in line with what global warming is predicted to
produce by complex mathematical models of the Earth's
climate run on supercomputers. ((Boy, that's a vital
distinction, huh? I bet if a melting Swiss Alp fell on
you, you'd find a lot of consolation in the integrity
of those weathermen.)))
"And even if the record is not quite breached,
Britain's weather services are agreed that tomorrow
temperatures will be in the upper 30s Centigrade (or the
high 90s Fahrenheit), certainly hitting 35-36C (95-97F).
These are temperatures that, in the past, have been
reached only a few times per century, and in anticipation,
temporary speed restrictions were imposed yesterday on
some of Britain's busiest rail routes for fear of rails
buckling in the heat. (((Nice Wexelblat item there.)))
"(...) Individuals should be equally careful. Don't plan
anything strenuous, put suncream on the children and keep
your bottled water handy. Britain will bake.
"It has been coming for weeks. Across Europe, an
unending episode of unprecedented heat has this summer
reduced major rivers to a trickle in Italy, turned
southern France into an inferno of forest fires and sent
people in Germany to their deaths from heatstroke. Only
the Atlantic westerly winds have kept the burning air from
Britain — and now the winds are blowing from the south-
east, and blowing the heat our way. "But what a contrast, in central and Eastern Europe, with just a year ago. Then the problems were not heat and
drought — they were torrential downpours and flooding.
(((I know that none of this is news to Viridian people,
but, well, gee whiz.)))
"As two depressions came together (((three, counting
the economy))) last August and dumped a deluge of biblical
proportions over southern Germany, the Czech Republic,
Austria and Hungary, the region's great rivers burst their
banks and drowned more than 100 people amid millions of
pounds worth of damage. The two jewel cities of
Mitteleuropa, Dresden and Prague, were inundated as the
Elbe and the Vltava overflowed, and only its high flood
defence walls saved Budapest as the Danube rose nearly 10
metres. (This year it is, in places, only a metre deep).
"However, Europe's record soaking summer of 2002 and its record baking summer of 2003 do not cancel each other
out in terms of indicating global warming — just the opposite.
"Both are in line with one of the key features
predicted for climate change, if levels of greenhouses gases in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), keep going up — more extreme weather occurs. (((Welcome to "global weirding.")))
"'They are both consistent with what the computer
models of the climate are saying will become more
frequent, if CO2 levels continue to rise,' said Simon
Brown, who is in charge of researching extreme events at
the Met Office's Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and
Research. (((I wonder if this guy will have to wander off
into a forest and slit his wrists some day.)))
"Higher temperatures mean the air could hold more
moisture, Dr Brown said, so even in a dry summer, when
rain falls, it could be much heavier.
"Five weeks ago, in an unprecedented announcement, the
World Meteorological Organisation signalled weather
extremes were being recorded all across the world, from Switzerland's hottest-ever June to a record month for tornadoes in the US — and linked them to global warming directly.
"No one can prove it. But as you swelter in the heat
today, you should realise the evidence is stacking up.
(((If there is a good sign here, it's that nobody
on Earth is getting away with this. The Greenhouse is
well-nigh universally awful.)))
"Portugal declared a state of national disaster yesterday
after the worst spate of forest fires in more than two
decades killed nine people, torched thousands of hectares
of tinder-dry forest and destroyed scores of homes, writes
"The emergency declaration allowed more than E100m
(L70m) in aid to be released. The funds will go to people
who have lost their jobs and homes, farmers who have lost
crops and livestock, and to local councils so that they
can begin rebuilding infrastructure. (((As Munich Re
points out, in the 2060s weather damage will outpace
the planet's entire GNP.)))
"Emergency services in Lisbon said the fires, which
came after weeks without rain, had hit 15 of the country's
18 regions. Almost 3,000 firefighters, 380 troops, 781
fire engines, 23 helicopters and 12 water-carrying planes
were deployed to fight the blazes, which were fanned by
strong winds. (((Portuguese "khaki green.")))
"The wildfires were raging mostly in the central region
near Castelo Branco, about 120 miles north-east of Lisbon,
where the hills are covered with pine forests.
"Rescue workers said nine people had died in the past
week, including a fireman who was killed when a fire
engine crashed. So far this year there have been about
1,700 wild fires in the country, destroying more than
26,000 hectares of scrub and trees.
"As the temperature rose to more than 40C, rail
services were halted and roads were cut off in some
regions. (((Too disastrous to flee the disaster.)))
"Emergency services evacuated hundreds of residents from
villages and farmhouses in central and south-west Spain
yesterday, writes Tim Gaynor, as high winds and record
temperatures fanned summer fires into roaring blazes that
scorched thousands of hectares of woodland.
"Hundreds of firefighters and volunteers battled blazes in
the province of Avila, north-west of Madrid, after a
separate fire in the region of Extremadura bordering
Portugal, which destroyed 1,000 hectares (2,470 acres) of
woodland and led to the evacuation of 750 people, was
brought under control. (((I was in Extremadura last
month. A beautiful place. Lo siento, sorry, friends.)))
"Emergency services in Avila said the blaze was raging
along a front 80 kilometres wide across 5,000 hectares of
"Further fires, whipped up by strong winds and record
temperatures above 40C (104F) in much of the country, also
burned over the weekend in the western Andalusian province
of Huelva and in Ciudad Real in the central La Mancha
plains. The temperatures in many towns and cities are the
highest since records began.
"As temperatures and ozone levels hit new peaks in
France yesterday, the happiest beasts were 27 polar bears
slurping mackerel-flavoured iced lollies at a zoo near
Paris, writes Alex Duval Smith. The worst off, after
police enforced reduced speed limits to cut pollution,
were holidaymakers stuck in their cars. (((Interesting
thematic development here.)))
"Meteo France said the coolest thing for humans to do,
at least until Thursday, would be to carry out important
business at daybreak when temperatures could fall as low
as 20C. Yesterday, Clermont-Ferrand in the south recorded
43C at midday. (((The custom of siestas moves north to
France. "There are no more Pyrenees.")))
"The weather forecasting centre said the combination
of high temperatures and heavy traffic last weekend had
compounded the pollution. Ozone counts reached peak
levels, including in traditionally temperate cities such
as Le Havre and Reims. In Provence, sulphur dioxide levels
reached their highest rates this year.
"While the bears at Thoiry Zoo near Versailles were
cooling themselves with mackerel frozen into ice, efforts
at France's nuclear power stations to keep temperatures
down met with controversy.
"The Green Party said Fessenheim nuclear power station
in Alsace — where a temperature of 48C was recorded
outside the reactor last week — should be immediately
shut. The party denounced what it called the
'irresponsible attitude' of Electricite' de France in
using a giant water cannon to cool the outer shell of the plant. The Greens also warned that the falling level of
the Loire had increased the radioactivity of cooling water
pumped into the river from the Villerest reactor. (((No lakes and rivers, no nuclear power. Well, wait till next year — maybe they'll flood and wash the reactors away.)))
"After a weekend of record holiday traffic, police in
Paris and Bouches-du-Rhone reduced the motorway speed
limit to 100kph (60mph).
"In Italy the priests have asked their congregations to
pray for rain, writes Hugh MacLeod.
"With the river Po in the north nearly eight metres
(24ft) below its normal levels and still dropping, and the
national grid issuing a warning of possible blackouts,
officials are on the point of declaring a state of
emergency in the north. (((Great to see both government
and religion pitching in to solve the problem.)))
"Plans are being drawn up to pump water from Alpine
lakes and dams into the river Po, which is at its lowest
level for 100 years.
"Temperatures in Rome have been hitting 35C for weeks,
forcing tourists to cool off in the Trevi fountain — and
pay a fine for doing so.
"Agricultural groups say farmers have lost about E5bn
worth of crops, and the price of some fruit and vegetables
has gone up as a result of the drought.
"In southern Italy, where lack of water has become a
serious problem, large areas of scrubland were destroyed
by fires raging in Calabria and Salento in the region of
"Fire broke out on Mount Vesuvius but it was reported
to have been extinguished at the weekend.
"Italy's national grid, GRTN, said there may be power
blackouts today due to high demand and problems with the
supply of electricity. Italy has suffered power cuts in
recent weeks as temperatures have soared.
"A GRTN official said the grid estimated 2,000
megawatts of demand more than had been expected, and
reduced capacity at some power plants may make it
necessary to cut power.
"This time last year the weather in Germany was the
opposite of what it is now. August 2002 brought the worst
floods to hit the country in more than 100 years, writes
"A year on, Germany's media is remembering the
tragedy, which cost 11 lives and caused E9.1bn in damage.
Now Germany swelters in up to 40C and 95 per cent
humidity. They are the highest temperatures in Germany
since 1976, the German weather service says.
"Dresden's train station, famously pictured under
water at the height of the floods last year, is now a
tangle of train lines on parched grass. Temperatures in
Berlin soared to over 35C at the weekend and the city's
lakeside beaches were packed with people trying to cool
"But Germany's heat wave has also brought its own
disasters. 'Berlin cooks', screamed the city's tabloid
BZ's front page on yesterday. The newspaper reported the
deaths of four Berliners due to the extreme heat,
including two pensioners who died driving. (((Yet another
transport angle here. Old people dropping dead in moving
"The paper also told of Berlin caretaker Bernd K who
died after chasing two teenagers he suspected of trying to
break into a flat. 'The heat wave, the excitement, it was
too much for the 49-year-old,' the paper wrote.
"Many Germans may hope for a Hitzefrei, or 'heatwave
off', a rule that allows workers and schoolchildren to go
home if temperatures rise too high and it becomes too
uncomfortably, or dangerously, hot to stay at their desks.
((("Hitzefrei," nice coinage there. Welcome to the German
"REST OF EUROPE
"Even Sweden hasn't escaped the blazes which have been
sweeping Europe for the past week, reporting a series of
bush fires along its north-eastern coast, writes Hugh
"Across the continent, gusting winds are fanning the
flames through tinder-dry forests and crops.
"In Greece, dozens of holidaymakers and residents were
evacuated early last week from properties near the Corinth
canal as flames threatened the area, while the worst fires
in 15 years burned outside the Croatian city of Dubrovnik.
"In neighbouring Slovenia, about 500 firefighters were
fighting the biggest fire in a decade near the Italian
"Many parts of Switzerland have banned open fires
completely while the levels of the Danube fell to their
lowest in more than a century in Serbia and Montenegro,
making the river unnavigable for barges."
4 August 2003 20:32
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IT'S JUST GETTING
STARTED, YOU KNOW
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