Greece is undergoing the second major climate event of the summer with floods devastating central parts of the country. More than 20 inches of rain fell in just ten hours in the streets of Zagora, creating a historic flooding event.
Greece recently suffered from the wildfires of early summer and is now trying to cope with disastrous damages from heavy rainfall and flooding.
British holidaymakers once again were left stranded – this time on the island of Skiathos, as Storm Daniel continued to cause extreme flooding. The system is now being called a ‘Medicane’, referring to the cyclonic conditions caused by the influence of the warmer Mediterranean Sea.
Videos posted on social media demonstrated how roads were turned into rivers in Skiathos, while towns like Volos, Greece, were made unrecognisable with the historic rainfall and immense devastation. Unbelievably, cars were seen to be washed into the sea at Agios Ioannis, Pelion.
Climate change on steroids
Retired meteorologist Guy Walton – ‘The Climate Guy’ and author of the Thermo trilogy for children, posted on his daily climate blog that:
“[Europe] is experiencing another dire climate crisis related weather pattern in the form of the Greek letter omega jet stream configuration. Meteorologically this is a blocky pattern, which traditionally is not too rare, but on steroids when climate change gets factored into the mix”.
He described this ‘omega’ configuration as forming “when two cold pockets from higher latitudes get pinched off and move to lower latitudes between a predominant larger warm pocket producing the omega configuration”.
Researcher in weather and climate change impact research at the Finnish Meteorological Institute, Mika Rantanen, posted a clear image on social media, demonstrating how this heatwave has been created.
From fire to flood
Meteorologist Scott Duncan, also highlighted the impact and severity of the omega formation, when he posted on social media, “How it can be flooding in Spain and Greece while large parts of Europe are under record-breaking September heat … Remarkable omega [Ω] block ongoing”.
UK climatologist Ed Hawkins – famous for his ‘climate stripes’ highlighted the overwhelming amount of rain falling in Greece:
“780mm is roughly the average rainfall that many parts of the UK get in a whole year. Imagine that amount falling in less than a day. These rainfall events are getting more intense because of burning fossil fuels.”
NASA highlights the link between increased temperature rise and increased atmospheric moisture:
“For every degree Celsius that Earth’s atmospheric temperature rises, the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere can increase by about 7%, according to the laws of thermodynamics.”
Floods across Europe
As well as Greece, devastating floods from torrential rainfall have also been experienced in Spain, with citizens in the capital, Madrid, being asked to stay at home in the face of “exceptional and abnormal” rainfall. Record rainfall caused major flooding in Spain over the weekend with videos showing vulnerable people being carried to safety. Many towns and cities were left coping with the catastrophic damage by the flash flooding. The Metro system in Madrid was also flooded by the torrential rain as onlookers captured the scenes.
A cultural shift is needed
Although there are Britons directly caught up in the devastating flooding in Greece, it cannot be that the rest of us sit idly by and become climate voyeurs – watching horrific scenes play out across our social media and news, content in the knowledge that it is not happening to us. Responding to the question of why we should care reveals our ideology and appreciation of the ‘other’– those directly impacted by climate events today, wherever they are in the world.
We cannot genuinely expect others to respond to our eventual moment of need – through financial means, or resources, while we begrudge any financial aid we give other countries. Only wanting to respond when we are directly and personally impacted reveals a degree of selfishness and ‘apartness’ that hints at echoes of exceptionalism.
Over the next few days, the UK will see temperatures soaring into the 30s and heatwave conditions have been met. This will be no doubt met with approval from those wanting an ‘Indian summer’.
Yet this cultural lack of understanding over the dangers of heatwaves cannot be brought home to those who seemed to have forgotten or dismissed the 3,000 deaths from the heat recorded in the UK last year.
In 2023, the UK recorded its eighth warmest summer on record according to the Met Office, owing to a largely forgotten warm June. It is this element of ‘forgetting’ that is concerning when climate events are discussed. Some people may already have forgotten about the Greek wildfires and the damage that they caused. The country is still recovering as it tries to now cope with a second extreme weather event.
Recovery from climate events such as flooding and wildfires takes time. There is a huge financial and emotional cost, as businesses, communities, homes and possessions are washed away – and the fatalities constitute a tragedy that is unspeakable.
Europe is not yet at the recovery stage of these events, it is still experiencing them, and they will worsen unless effective climate action is taken now.