Last month, the world was in turmoil. This year’s average global temperature in July was the highest ever recorded, so July set a record for the world’s warmest month ever measured according to the Copernicus organisation . The devastating temperatures hit southern European countries hardest, providing favourable conditions for fires to break out.
Waves of fires
By the end of July, southern and western Europe was on fire. The European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) observed that 177,032 hectares of the entire European Union burned between 1 January and 22 July . In comparison, Poland, with an area of 32. million hectares, is covered by just over 9. million hectares of forest. 200,000 hectares are covered by forests managed by the State Forests (this is the area from Płońsk through Warsaw to Łuków and Siedlice), and it is similar to the area that disappeared during the seven months of this year from Europe as a result of fires . This is also considerably more than the multi-year average value for this period, which was 128 225.13 ha so far . The regions most affected by the devastating fires were the countries in the Mediterranean area. According to the United Nations (UN), this area is warming 20% faster than the average for the entire globe, which is the reason for the fires and violent weather events in this region .
In Poland, we have managed to get through this season fairly unharmed, but recent warnings by climate experts from TVN Meteo are sobering: Poland is also affected by changes in our climate . Interestingly, as in most areas of northern Europe during this summer, the air temperature here was close to the multi-year average . Compared to the 1991-2020 multi-year averages, the increase in temperature appeared to be clearly visible only in central Poland (from 1 deg C) while the rest of our country was 0.5-1 deg C higher. In the Baltic coastal regions, temperature values were close to the multi-year average .
Climate change is not accidental
Dr Tomasz Rożek in an interview with wp.pl mentions that the increase in temperature is not an accidental, incidental situation and Poland is also affected by the changes taking place in our climate . The founder of ‘Nauka to Lubię’ foundation aptly pointed to changes in the structure of precipitation – ‘it rains the same amount, but the rains are distributed differently, they are less frequent and much more intense, a lot of water runs off into the nearest river and this causes local flooding, then the water runs off, the unsoaked ground dries out and in the same places there is drought again as soon as the bedding is dry’ .
Alert to change
A change on the part of the authorities in the fight for a better climate future is crucial – “We have known for years that draining swamps, land reclamation, straightening rivers, concreting rivers, regulating, cutting down forests, turning meadows into farmland adversely affect the accumulation, the retention of water in the environment” – declares the publicist-scientist . Dr. Rożek describes that there are many such ‘sponges’ in nature, such as peat bogs, swamps or floodplains, which suck up water. When these types of areas are built up or given high dikes (so that the former floodplains are sold for a lot of money for housing development) then when there is an excess of water in the river, it flows straight into the Baltic Sea. When there were no dikes, the water would spill over the land and stay longer in the environment eliminating the effects of drought that we are now experiencing .
Mr. Thomas, citing the alarming results, also warns about the possible need to postpone school holidays due to the high temperatures during the summer months . Undoubtedly, in the future, we will all have to adapt to the changing climate and such modifications to our current lifestyles will become a norm.
However, the journalist and science popularizer does not lose his optimism about the current climate battle and promising technological solutions in key areas (such as ecology) that can serve as effective weapons in stopping climate change .
- The world is in turmoil, a historic record has been set [Internet]. TVN Meteo. 2023 [cited 2023 Aug 22]. Accessed: https://tvn24.pl/tvnmeteo/swiat/zmiany-klimatu-lipiec-2023-byl-najcieplejs
- Fires in Europe on the map. Almost 180,000 hectares burned [Internet]. TVN Meteo. 2023 [cited 2023 Aug 22]. Accessed: https://tvn24.pl/tvnmeteo/swiat/pozary-w-europie-mapa-europejska-mapa-pozarow-splonelo-ponad-170-tysiecy-hektarow-7258856.
- Zygiel A. Fires are ravaging Europe. It is a warning also for Poland [Internet]. wiadomosci.wp.pl. 2023 [cited 2023 Aug 22]. Accessed: https://wiadomosci.wp.pl/pozary-pustosza-europe-to-ostrzezenie-takze-dla-polski-6923862071163520a.