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Wildfires rage as another heatwave bakes France, Spain and Portugal

  • 11 Aug 2022

The European Space Agency warns about the effects of "extreme" land temperatures and shrinking rivers on agriculture and other industries.

Severe drought is set to slash the European Union's maize harvest by 15 percent, dropping it to a 15-year low. ( Reuters )

Wildfires have torn through parts of France, Spain and Portugal as heatwaves baked Europe, and the head of the European Space Agency urged immediate action to fight climate crisis.

Heatwaves, floods and crumbling glaciers in recent weeks have heightened concerns over climate change and the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather across the globe.

The head of the European Space Agency, Josef Aschbacher, said rising land temperatures and shrinking rivers as measured from space left no doubt about the toll on agriculture and other industries from climate crisis.

ESA's Copernicus Sentinel-3 satellite series has measured "extreme" land surface temperatures of more than 45C (113F) in Britain, 50C in France and 60C in Spain in recent weeks.

"It's pretty bad. We have seen extremes that have not been observed before," Aschbacher said.

READ MORE: Wildfires in Europe burn second-biggest area on record

'Extreme heat'

Britain's Met Office on Thursday issued a four-day "extreme heat" warning for parts of England and Wales.

With a dangerous cocktail of blistering temperatures, tinder-box conditions and wind fanning the flames in France, President Emmanuel Macron said several European Union nations were deploying reinforcements to help beat back the blaze.

In Portugal, more than 1,500 firefighters spent a sixth day fighting a wildfire in the central Covilha region that has burned 10,500 hectares (40 square miles), including parts of the Serra da Estrela national park.

In Spain, electrical storms triggered new wildfires and hundreds of people were evacuated from the path of one blaze in the province of Caceres.

READ MORE: Thousands evacuated as wildfires spread in southwestern France

Climate crisis risks

With successive heatwaves baking Europe this summer, bringing record temperatures and unprecedented droughts, renewed focus has been placed on climate crisis risks to farming, industry and livelihoods.

Severe drought is set to slash the European Union's maize harvest by 15 percent, dropping it to a 15-year low, just as Europeans contend with higher food prices as a result of lower-than-normal grain exports from Russia and Ukraine.

Swiss army helicopters have been drafted in to airlift water to thirsty cows, pigs and goats sweltering under a fierce sun in the country's Alpine meadows.

In France, suffering its harshest drought on record, trucks are delivering water to dozens of villages where taps have run dry, nuclear power stations have received waivers to keep pumping hot discharge water into rivers, and farmers warn a shortage of fodder may lead to milk shortages.

In Germany, scant rainfall this summer has drained the water levels of the Rhine, the country's commercial artery, hampering shipping and pushing freight costs.

READ MORE: Global heating: Last month among hottest Julys on record

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