Let us recall the summer of 2003. The summer that took thousands of lives, destroyed the agriculture of many countries and left the print in history. That summer almost all European countries experienced the highest temperatures ever observed. The heat began on August 7 and did not let up for nearly two weeks. While, Eastern European countries did not experience that much the killing heatwave, Western and Southern Europe took the most of it. European heatwave 2003 deaths were recorded at the level of approximately 70 thousand. The abnormal heat was never that severe, Europeans suffered a lot and especially seniors, who were the most endangered.
The first reason, as scientists say, was a high pressure observed over most of Europe, precisely Western and Southern parts. Clock-wisely, the air moved around the high and brought dry and hot tropical continental masses of air to Europe at this time. The whole of April such a pattern occurred, leaving no space for clouds to protect from the sun and giving the floor for the heat to act.
The second reason that caused the 2003 heatwave was the lack of precipitations. The rainfall statistics over Europe were below the average level of the same periods (June, July, and August) from the last years. The above-described high pressure, which has lasted a while during the 2003 summer reduced the total amount of rainfalls in Europe.
Another European heatwave 2003 fact – the highest temperatures. Most European cities set the temperature records in summer 2003. The highest temperature of 41.1⁰C was recorded in Auxerre in the northeast of France. 40.7⁰C appeared on thermometers in Bordeaux and Toulouse in the south.
Forest fires raged in many countries, with damages estimated at tens of millions of dollars. A quarter of all forested areas in Poland were destroyed. On the outskirts of Berlin, a warehouse at a former Soviet military range, where ammunition from World War II had been stored, caught fire. Because of the intense heat shells and grenades began to explode spontaneously. Hundreds of firefighters were rushed to fight the flames. According to eyewitnesses, the conditions in which they had to work were very similar to those of combat. The fire quickly spread into the wooded area.
Because of the raging fires, Portugal was declared a disaster area. In just a few days thousands of hectares of forest and hundreds of homes were destroyed. To the aid of local firefighters came their colleagues from Spain, Italy, and Morocco.
France was the most affected country of all Europe. Heatwave in France in 2003 brought damage to the country’s economy and took more than 20 thousand people’s lives. The south of France was engulfed in flames. Experts from all over Europe helped the French to extinguish it. France suffered that much because it was not prepared for such a disaster. Summer is usually not that hot in this part of Europe. Especially in the north of France, the heat is not very frequent, so people do not equip their homes with air conditioning. The 40⁰C for several days in a row was such an anomaly that residents did not know how to react. That was a reason for many seniors` deaths, as they were unable to adjust to the conditions and help themselves endure such heat.
Heat affects all the environment, touching all the creatures in the world. Human scale: the most common was the heat-stroke (people felt dizzy, suffered from headache and high body temperatures, many of them died). Another problem was the dehydration of the body, as with the hot weather we sweat a lot, losing our water balance, and this leads to problems with the heart and breathing. At last, but not least- sunburn – damage to our skin, which can cause skin cancer in the future. 2003 heatwave aftermath for the environment was also dramatic.
Fires, river and lakes drying, air pollution, the agriculture losses (many cows, pigs, and chickens died). This list can last forever, as one problem causes another one. And the pity thing, that now history knows more of such natural disasters and they repeat themselves. The record heatwave Europe 2003 was beaten only in 2006 with a new heatwave and later on with other waves. The climate is changing and the open question remains: how many other heatwaves will Europe survive?
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