2022 Wildfire Season Expected to Be Europe’s Worst

In the first six months of 2022, hectares burned by wildfires have nearly matched the damage in all of 2021, with the peak season yet to come.

Loutraki, Greece
Jul. 18, 2022
By Daniel Dawson
Loutraki, Greece

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Wildfires have burned four times more land across Europe in the first six months of 2022 than the 2006 to 2021 annual aver­age, accord­ing to data from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS).

A com­bi­na­tion of scorch­ing heat­waves across the con­ti­nent and dry soils have cre­ated ideal con­di­tions for com­bus­tion, result­ing in about 700,000 hectares being burned in the first six months of the year. 

By com­par­i­son, roughly 950,000 hectares of wild­fires burned across Europe in all of 2021, fueled by four weeks in late July and early August that saw 400,000 hectares burn in Turkey, Italy and Greece, each record­ing their worst wild­fire sea­son in a decade.

See Also:Flames Engulf the Ancient Olive Grove of Amfissa

Europe’s olive-pro­duc­ing coun­tries once again have not been spared by the sum­mer blazes, a long-time phe­nom­e­non in the Mediterranean basin, but one that experts believe is being exac­er­bated by the impacts of cli­mate change.

In the year’s first half, 206,277 hectares already have burned across Europe’s 11 largest olive-pro­duc­ing coun­tries. These coun­tries recorded an annual aver­age of 373,785 hectares of wild­fire dam­age from 2006 to 2021.

Country
2022 ha burned
2006 – 2021 aver­age
Spain
86,729
66,965
Croatia
27,579
13,113
Italy
22,397
53,961
France
20,629
9,826
Montenegro
16,700
15,775
Portugal
16,329
96,625
Turkey
5,443
46,795
Albania
4,168
24,315
Greece
4,002
44,640
Cyprus
1,957
1,665
Slovenia
314
103
Source: EFFIS

European offi­cials are espe­cially con­cerned as the worst months for wild­fires rapidly approach. Record-set­ting heat­waves across much of south­west­ern Europe com­bined with abnor­mally low soil mois­ture could fuel European wild­fires in the peak months of July and August.

Academics and envi­ron­men­tal engi­neers are fur­ther con­cerned that the con­ti­nent is enter­ing a vicious cycle, where depleted for­est cover con­tributes to more intense heat­waves and wild­fires which fur­ther deplete for­est cover. 

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However, the record wild­fires have spurred European offi­cials into action and seen some of the most at-risk coun­tries receiv­ing new fire­fight­ing equip­ment and per­son­nel. Scientific fore­cast­ing is also help­ing local offi­cials iden­tify the regions with the high­est risk of wild­fires to deploy resources accord­ingly. 

Last year, we wit­nessed the sec­ond worst for­est fire sea­son on record in the E.U.,” said Janez Lenarčič, the European com­mis­sioner for cri­sis man­age­ment. This served as a painful reminder of the dev­as­tat­ing effect that for­est fires have on the lives of Europeans.”

With this fleet in place, the E.U. boosts the con­ti­nen­t’s pre­pared­ness to face for­est fires,” he con­cluded.



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