Jul 25, 2023, 6:44am EDT

What to know about this summer’s heat and fires

A firefighting helicopter makes a water drop as a wildfire burns near the village of Archangelos, on the island of Rhodes, Greece, July 24, 2023. REUTERS/Nicolas Economou
REUTERS/Nicolas Economou

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The News

Thousands have been evacuated from fires burning across southern Europe and North Africa.

In Algeria, at least 1,500 people fled a blaze in the country’s mountainous Bejaia and Bouira regions. The fires have killed at least 34 people. In Greece, forest fires have been raging across the islands of Rhodes and Corfu, prompting the Greek government to carry out the largest evacuation in its history.

We’ve gathered key news and insights you should read on this year’s unprecedented heat.

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  • Record-breaking heat can no longer be considered “rare” because of climate change, the authors of a recent study say. The study has found that so far, the July 2023 heatwave has been 2 degrees Celsius, 2.5 C, and 1 C hotter in the U.S., Europe, and China respectively than it would have been in a world without climate change. — Carbon Brief
  • Antarctica is struggling to regain its sea ice this winter. The issue, referred to as a “five-sigma” event because of its extreme rarity, is so statistically unlikely it could only be expected to happen once every 7.5 million years. Sea ice is crucial for the Earth’s ability to temperature-regulate, and physical oceanographer Edward Doddridge said in a recent interview that to call the event “unprecedented isn’t strong enough.” — Australian Broadcasting Corporation
  • As fires increase in frequency, some insurance companies are withdrawing their coverage from susceptible areas. In California, which suffers annual wildfire seasons, Allstate and State Farm, alongside several other large insurers, have downsized their coverage for fires in an attempt to avoid paying out billions in damages. Elsewhere in the U.S., insurance companies are reducing their services in areas hit by climate disasters. — NPR
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Know More

“We are at war,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in Parliament. “The climate crisis is already here, it will manifest itself everywhere in the Mediterranean with greater disasters.”

Thousands of tourists have been evacuated from Greece, with some sleeping on airport floors as they awaited repatriation flights to their home countries.

One BBC reporter, dispatched to Rhodes to cover the fires, said that the pilot operating the flight warned that “traveling to Rhodes for a holiday at the moment is a terrible idea.”