Monday, December 05, 2022

UK heatwaves, wildfires called for adapting to climate change

LONDON ( Associated Press) – Britain’s record-breaking heatwave has called on the government to accelerate efforts to adapt to the changing climate, especially as wildfires ravaged London’s capital since the city was bombed during World War II. Made the busiest day for the firefighters.

The country got a break on Wednesday from dry, hot weather that is gripping much of Europe as cold air moved in from the west. Forecasters predict London will hit a high of 26 degrees Celsius (79 Fahrenheit) on Wednesday, well below the national record 40.3 C (104.4 F) set on Tuesday in Conningsby, eastern England.

Still, travel was disrupted for the third day as rail operators repaired damage from the heat, and firefighters at the scene of Tuesday’s fire continue to cordon off the hotspot.

Professor Stephen Belcher, chief scientist at Britain’s National Weather Service Met Office, said Britain needed to be prepared for similar heatwaves in the future as human-made carbon emissions have already changed the climate. He said only aggressive emissions reduction would reduce the frequency of such incidents.

“Everything is yet to play out, but we have to adapt to the kind of events that we saw yesterday as the occasional extreme event,” Baker told the BBC.

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Climate scientists are surprised by the speed at which temperatures have risen in Britain in recent years and the wider region affected by this week’s event. Thirty-four locations around the UK on Tuesday broke the country’s previous record-high temperature of 37.8 C (100 F) set in 2019.

Weather engulfed a country where some homes, schools or small businesses have air conditioning and infrastructure such as railroads, highways and airports not designed to handle such temperatures. Thirteen people, including seven teenage boys, are believed to have died trying to cool off due to hardship in rivers, reservoirs and lakes.

Cabinet Office minister Kit Malthhouse told the House of Commons that fifteen fire departments declared major incidents as more than 60 properties across the country were destroyed on Tuesday.

One of the largest fires was in Wenington, a village on the eastern outskirts of London, where a row of homes was destroyed by flames that emanated from nearby tinder-dry fields. Resident Tim Stock said he and his wife fled after the house next door caught fire and the fire spread rapidly.

“It was like a war zone,” he said. “Down the actual main street, all the windows were torn down, all the roofs were smashed, it was like a scene from the Blitz.”

Mayor Sadiq Khan said the London Fire Brigade received 2,600 calls on Tuesday, compared to the usual number of around 350, adding that it was the department’s busiest day since World War II. Despite lower temperatures on Wednesday, the fire risk remains high as hot, dry weather has dried up grasslands around the city, Khan said.

“Once this fire starts it spreads incredibly fast, like you see in movies or in wildfires in parts of California or France,” Khan told the BBC.

Phil Gerrigan, leader of the National Fire Chiefs Council’s Resilience Group, said wildfires are an emerging climate change threat that is increasing the capacity of fire departments. He told the BBC that Britain may need to expand its capacity to fight wildfires, adding more airborne tankers and helicopters.

“As we look to the future, this is certainly something the UK government and fire and rescue services need to consider,” he said. “Do we have the capacity, the assets, to be able to meet a significant amount of emerging demand?”

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Wildfires are spreading destruction in other parts of Europe. About 500 firefighters struggled to contain a major wildfire that threatened the mountainous suburbs outside Athens for a second day as fires burned through the southern part of the continent.

Relief from the scorching heat helped improve conditions in France, Spain and Portugal, countries that have been battling the flames for days.

Britain’s travel network also suffered during the hot season, with Luton Airport temporarily closed by a heat-damaged runway and forcing trains to run at lower speeds due to concerns over heat rail damage. will damage or interfere with the power supply.

Some disruption remained on Wednesday, with the main train line from London to Edinburgh shutting down as workers worked to repair power lines and signaling equipment damaged by the fire.

Among those stranded was Lee Ball, 46, who was trying to travel with his wife, Libby, and 10-year-old daughter Emily, from Worcestershire to London on their way to Brussels for an Ed Sheeran concert. Their train was canceled with less than 30 minutes’ notice, so they went to another station – and waited.

“I’ve been up since 4:30, worried, we’re trying to get answers out of nowhere,” he said.

He said communication from train companies has been “horrendous”.

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