LISBON, Portugal (AP) – As Portugal prepares for a heat wave, temperatures in some regions are forecast to rise to 43 centigrade (109 Fahrenheit) this weekend just as a severe drought is engulfing the country.
The Civil Protection Agency, a Portuguese government agency that coordinates government response in emergencies, said on Thursday it was keeping crews on high alert due to the risk of wildfires. About a third of the country’s forests are at high risk of wildfires, authorities say.
High temperatures are forecast to last at least a week. The National Weather Service IPMA says it calls it a “tropical night,” when temperatures are above 20 centigrade (68 Fahrenheit) after sunset, presumably.
The hot spell comes because most of Portugal endures drought. At the end of June, 96% of the country was classified as “extreme” or “severe” drought – the two highest categories.
The meteorological service says rainfall for the nine months since last October was more than half the average for the period and the second lowest since 1931, when the reliable national record began.
Heat waves and droughts are not uncommon in Portugal, but climate scientists say all of southern Europe can expect higher temperatures and lower rainfall as a result of global warming.
As extremely dry weather is hitting the Mediterranean countries, the European Union executive said Thursday that the continent is facing one of its most difficult years in terms of natural disasters such as droughts and wildfires due to increasing climate change.
June was also very dry in neighboring Portugal on the Iberian Peninsula, where the average annual rainfall was about half that of 30 years and the reservoirs averaged 45% capacity – 10 percentage points lower than the 10-year average, according to official data.
Italy has recently endured a prolonged heatwave and is facing the worst drought in 70 years.
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