Greece is bracing for the first heatwave of the summer as meteorologists warn that daytime temperatures will climb over 40 Celsius (104F) in many parts of the country through Sunday.
A series of health safety guidelines were issued on Tuesday for vulnerable groups in an emergency bulletin by the National Observatory’s Meteo weather service.
The service advises that young children, the elderly and people with health problems drink plenty of water, take only light meals, avoid all unnecessary exposure and physical exertion, and, if venturing outdoors, dress in light clothing and keep their heads covered with a hat or use an umbrella.
People are also advised to check in with elderly friends and relatives who are living alone.
According to Meteo, the heat wave which started to sweep into Greece from northern Africa on Monday night and Tuesday morning will take daytime highs in most parts of mainland Greece and the Peloponnese up to 38-39 degrees Celsius and above 40C in certain areas.
Temperatures will be more bearable on the islands, where the highs will not exceed 35C (95 degrees F).
On Tuesday, the temperatures will reach 35 degrees in Western Macedonia, 37 in the rest of Northern Greece and 39 in the rest of mainland Greece.
The temperatures are expected to keep rising through the week, hitting their peak on Thursday and throughout the weekend.
High levels of humidity will add to the oppressive weather and bring a good chance of afternoon downpours and thunderstorms, Meteo added.
Heatwaves more frequent in Greece
According to a recent study by Meteo, heatwaves — defined as three consecutive days of above 36.5 Celsius (97.7 F) — are becoming more regular in Greece.
In 1987 a prolonged heat wave lasting from July 20 to 31 in Greece claimed more than 1,000 lives in the area of Athens alone.
The maximum temperature measured was 47.6 °C (117.7 °F) on July 23 in the center of Athens. Moreover, the humidity was high and wind speeds were low, contributing greatly to human discomfort, even during the nighttime.
Temperatures rise three times faster than world average
Temperatures in the Eastern Mediterranean are rising three times faster than the global average, with the effects of climate change already felt in Greece, mainly on Crete and the eastern Peloponnese, according to Climpact.
Climate scientist Nikos Michalopoulos of the National Observatory of Athens spoke on the forum on “Mitigating the Impact and Adaptation of Greek Agriculture to Climate Change” saying that Greece might be forced to restructure the cultivation of crops in the coming years.
“The Eastern Mediterranean and the Arctic Circle are the two most important hot spots in the world in terms of the impact of climate change,” Michalopoulos explained.
The scientist noted that due to the particularly high temperatures, a decrease in crop yield is expected.
An increase in the frequency of extreme weather events will bring more frequent crop damage and reduced water availability due to prolonged droughts, which, consequently, will result in increased water demands for irrigation.
In addition, he noted, the increase in temperature and humidity in the air will result in the proliferation of pests and diseases that affect crop yields both qualitatively and quantitatively.