Greek scientists: Name heat waves to raise awareness of the extreme climatic phenomenon


Acropolis, Parthenon and Theatre of Herodes Atticus in Athens, Greece. Photo: AFP

Experiencing one of the worst years in terms of drought and forest fires, Greece is suffering the full force of the effects of global warming. To raise awareness, scientists from the National Observatory of Athens recommend naming heat waves, just like storms.

Extreme heat wreaks havoc, both from a human and environmental point of view. While natural disasters such as forest fires, floods and cyclones have existed for a long time, the summer of 2021 shows an amplification of these phenomena, accentuated by the climate crisis.

Faced with the worst heat wave since 1987, in the words of Greece's Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the country has seen more than 100,000ha of its forests go up in smoke since the beginning of this summer season. In early July, the municipality of Athens appointed a climate expert, Eleni Myrivili.

"We need to rethink the public space as a whole because the consequences affect the health of our population and the economy of our country. There are more workplace accidents with the rise in temperatures and people go to shops less," she told the AFP.

Four years ago, the Greek meteorological community decided to officially classify winter storms and other extreme weather events as risk events, due to the significant damage (mainly human and material) they cause. Today, these same scientists are stressing the need to include drought events in this same category.

In this southern European country, storms and winds are given names (male and female) directly from Greek mythology: Boreas for the winter wind, Euros for the autumn storms... The idea would be to do the same thing with heat waves.

"We believe people will be more prepared to face an upcoming weather event when the event has a name," Dr Kostas Lagouvardos, research director at the National Observatory of Athens told the Guardian's Observer.

"The whole idea of making heatwaves more visible by naming and categorising them in terms of severity would be a turning point," indicated Myrivili, also cited in the article.

"It would help people understand the danger that is looming while enabling decision-makers to trigger policies that would better protect them," she added. – AFP Relaxnews

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