Greece has been experiencing unseasonably warm temperatures this winter, prompting people to head for the beach instead of the ski resorts. However, the mild weather leaves scientists concerned.
“Normally at this time (of the year) about 10 to 12 percent of the Greek territory, in particular the mountains, is covered with snow,” Kostas Lagouvardos, research director at the Institute for Environmental Research of the National Observatory of Athens, told Xinhua in a recent interview.
“According to estimates based on available satellite data, this figure is now 0.1 percent. That is about 100 times lower than the seasonal average. Since 2004, after nearly 20 years of having reliable satellite measurements, this is the first year we have had such a low percentage,” he said.
December 2022 was one of the warmest Decembers in decades in Greece, he said. In most parts of the country temperatures were higher than normal and this weather pattern continued in January.
“In some areas in northern Greece, the temperatures these days are 7-8 degrees Celsius above normal.”
In certain parts of central and northern Greece, this phenomenon started in October and this is what worries experts the most, he said.
“We should not only focus on the extreme phenomena, which are also of interest, a cold spell or a heat wave, but also on the average course of temperature, which shows that a change linked to climate change is consolidating,” Lagouvardos said.
Similar images of unusually mild weather, record high temperatures, plenty of sunshine and lack of snow have been recorded in many European countries this winter.
Since the beginning of this week, Greece has received rainfalls and snow in the mountainous regions. Meanwhile, concerns over climate instability, climate crisis and climate change remain.
“The signs for the coming decades are not auspicious. The situation will get worse if we can’t stop the continuous emission of greenhouse gases,” Lagouvardos said.
Under the bad scenario, in the coming decades Greece will experience particularly hot and dry summers with extended heat waves and wildfires, he said.
“If the summer of 2021 (with heatwaves and wildfires) is the typical summer of the future, things will be very difficult,” the scientist said.
In the summer of 2021, hundreds of blazes in the wider Athens region, the Peloponnese Peninsula and Evia Island, among others, destroyed more than 100,000 hectares of forests and farmland in the wake of the country’s worst heat wave in recent decades.