`Record Temperatures, Wildfires Return to Mediterranean Basin - Olive Oil Times

Record Temperatures, Wildfires Return to Mediterranean Basin

By Paolo DeAndreis
Jul. 28, 2023 14:34 UTC

Many Southern Europeans and thou­sands of tourists are cop­ing with the con­se­quences of some of the worst wild­fires suf­fered by the region in recent times.

In the last two weeks in Sicily, Italy, blazes devoured the coun­try­side, crops and olive groves, sur­round­ing cities and air­ports in a smokey embrace, halt­ing land and air traf­fic in pop­u­lar tourist des­ti­na­tions and mak­ing res­cue and relief oper­a­tions even harder.

The cli­matic sce­nar­ios we are see­ing for the Mediterranean region show a pro­gres­sive reduc­tion of pre­cip­i­ta­tions and a grow­ing impact of drought and heat­waves on peo­ples’ health and agri­cul­ture.- Gianmaria Sannino, cli­mate researcher, ENEA

Temperatures on the ground in some areas, such as the Palermo province, hit 47 ºC, a new record high for the Sicilian city.

The European Union’s Copernicus Earth obser­va­tory warned of record wild­fire emis­sions in Greece.

See Also:Researchers Predict More Intense Wildfires in Europe

Primarily located in the Attica region and Rhodes, July’s blazes gen­er­ated one mega­ton of car­bon emis­sions. Red alerts were for­mally declared on highly touris­tic islands such as Crete.

Experts believe that the cur­rent wild­fire sea­son in Greece is the worst since 2003, when satel­lite mon­i­tor­ing of such events began.


People attempt to extinguish a section of the wildfire on the Greek island of Rhodes, on July 26, 2023. (AP Photo)

In Spain, high tem­per­a­tures and the endur­ing drought in many areas still take a toll on wood­lands and forested areas. Large blazes mainly affected north­east­ern Spain, which is rich in thick veg­e­ta­tion.

On the south­ern bank of the Mediterranean basin, dev­as­tat­ing wild­fires once again burned across Algeria’s moun­tain­ous regions. Dozens of peo­ple died from the smoke and the heat, and at least 10 sol­diers deployed in those areas were killed.

In Tunisia, the pub­lic state energy oper­a­tor, STEG, announced a series of pro­grammed black­outs to main­tain the effi­ciency of the national elec­tric­ity net­work while tem­per­a­tures hit 50 °C.

Mark Parrington, a senior sci­en­tist in the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, noted how the cur­rent heat­wave hit­ting the Mediterranean sig­nif­i­cantly increased the wild­fire risk.

With sev­eral more weeks left in the sum­mer, we will con­tinue to closely mon­i­tor the fire emis­sions and poten­tial air qual­ity impacts across the region,” he said.

Both the Italian and Greek gov­ern­ments estab­lished ded­i­cated task forces to face the increas­ing threat posed by blazes. The Algerian gov­ern­ment released spe­cific guide­lines to the pop­u­la­tion to min­i­mize the risks.

The cli­matic sce­nar­ios we are see­ing for the Mediterranean region show a pro­gres­sive reduc­tion of pre­cip­i­ta­tions and a grow­ing impact of drought and heat­waves on peo­ples’ health and agri­cul­ture,” Gianmaria Sannino, head of the divi­sion mod­els and tech­nolo­gies for the reduc­tion of anthro­pogenic impacts and nat­ural risks at the Italian research pub­lic agency ENEA, recently told Olive Oil Times.

In such a sce­nario, the cur­rent olive sea­son might also suf­fer the con­se­quences of the sum­mer heat­wave. Temperatures might sig­nif­i­cantly impact the devel­op­ment of the fruit.

In the first five to 10 weeks after fruit set­ting, water stress can cause black­en­ing and falling of the fruits,” Primo Proietti, pro­fes­sor of agri­cul­tural and envi­ron­men­tal sci­ences at the University of Perugia, Italy, told Olive Oil Times.

Drought and high tem­per­a­tures in sum­mer can antic­i­pate ripen­ing and greatly reduce the growth of the fruit and the inoc­u­la­tion,” he said.


As a result of increased water stress, the ripen­ing fruits are dry and with a low pulp-to-core ratio, which results in dif­fi­culty to extract the oil,” Proietti added. On a qual­i­ta­tive level, the oil can acquire the defect sen­sory dry-wood, a woody and dry feel­ing.”

Andrea Carrassi, gen­eral direc­tor of the Italian Association of the Edible Oil Industry (Assitol), noted that the low olive oil stocks in Europe could hin­der olive oil avail­abil­ity in the next months and the next sea­son.”

Touristic orga­ni­za­tions have also taken notice of the sit­u­a­tion, as scorch­ing heat and high humid­ity impact a wide array of activ­i­ties and all out­door oper­a­tions. Smoke from wild­fires also ham­pered travel.

Thousands of tourists from the United Kingdom have seen their planned vaca­tions in the Greek islands can­celed.

The lat­est report from the European Travel Commission (ETC) released at the begin­ning of July, days before the heat­wave began, showed sig­nif­i­cant num­bers for tourism in Europe.

While it is still too early to esti­mate the heat­wave’s impact on the oleo­tourism sec­tor in all the major olive oil-pro­duc­ing coun­tries, tourists to Southern Europe are increas­ingly aware of the prob­lems caused by heat and heat­waves.

Miguel Mirones, pres­i­dent of the Spanish Institute for Tourism Quality, told Euronews that peo­ple are wait­ing until the last moment to see not where it is going to rain, but where those extreme tem­per­a­tures are going to hap­pen so that they can adapt.”


Related Articles