What's causing severe Heatwaves and Wildfires in Europe? UPSC Current Affairs

What's causing severe Heatwaves and Wildfires in Europe? UPSC Current Affairs

It’s time to upgrade your UPSC knowledge with our daily dose of Current Affairs. Today we will discuss What’s causing severe Heatwaves and Wildfires in Europe?

Read further to enhance your UPSC exam preparation and to find topic’s relevance to the UPSC CSE syllabus.

For Prelims: Heatwave, Wildfires, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Jet stream, Low-pressure zones, Climate Change, particulate matter (PM) 2.5, the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation

For Mains: Environment pollution and degradation, Wildfire in Europe, Severity of Wildfire,  Climate Change

Also read: Why Focus on Tree Plantation and Forest Restoration 

Context

Many European countries like Spain, Greece, and France are battling intense heat waves and wildfires.

Probable Question

Heat waves and wildfires were recently in the news due to the unprecedented rise in temperatures in Europe. Comment on the causes and consequences of these events and analyze the preparedness for the same.

About Heat Waves in Europe

Heat waves in Europe, are increasing in frequency and intensity at a faster rate than almost any other part of the planet, including the Western United States, due to;

  • The jet stream had temporarily split in two, leaving an area of weak winds and high-pressure air between the two branches that is conducive to the buildup of extreme heat.
  • The low-pressure zones tend to draw air toward them. In this case, also, it is steadily drawing air from North Africa toward it and into Europe.
  • The circulation of the atmosphere and the ocean may make Europe a heat wave hot spot.
  • The changes in one of the world’s major ocean currents, the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, may affect Europe’s climate.
  • Global warming plays a role, as it does in heat waves around the world because temperatures are on average about 1.1 degrees Celsius higher than they were in the late 19th century. Extreme heat takes off from a higher starting point.

About the Worsened Wildfires

  • Wildfires require the right climatic conditions, burnable fuel, and a spark.
  • Drought and high heat fuel the fire, as they kill plants and dry out dead grass, and other material on the forest floor.
  • Heat waves wipe out almost all the soil moisture, there is little left to evaporate when the next wave of hot air arrives. So more of the sun’s energy bakes the surface and many times causes wildfires.
  • While dry vegetation is the burnable fuel that serves as kindling for fires, the spark is sometimes caused by lightning, at other times by accident or recklessness of the local population.
  • Global warming and Climate Change
    • It has caused the rise in temperatures at about 1.1 degrees Celsius higher than in previous centuries.
    • Rising temperatures suck moisture out of plants, creating an abundance of dry fuel.
    • The unusual extreme temperatures and drought conditions in some parts of Europe have caused these wildfires
    • Climate change has caused dryness, high heat, and an early fire season, especially in Europe.
  • The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said: “The trends towards more dangerous fire-weather conditions are likely to increase due to rising concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gasses and the attendant escalation of wildfire risk factors.”

Also watch this detailed video on Cyclones, Thunderstorms and Tornadoes by Himanshu Sharma Sir, our Geography faculty and level up your Geography preparation for UPSC Mains exam:

The Severity of this Wildfire

  • It poses a direct risk to people’s life and property.
  • Thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes and thousands of hectares of forest land burned to the ground amid a searing heatwave.
  • They cause wildfire smoke, and particulate matter (PM) 2.5, or particles smaller than 2.5 microns, that affect the respiratory and cardiovascular systems.
  • The people, who are already suffering from cardiovascular or respiratory illnesses, there is a risk of flare-ups.

Way Forward

  • It is suggested to change the approach from firefighting to the mitigation of factors that lead to extreme heat and fire events.
  • Adaptation and mitigation shall go hand in hand; it includes preparedness and precautions in consumption patterns.
  • While strengthening firefighting capabilities, there is a need to tackle factors that make these fires escalate and become worse.
Additional InformationJet Streams:

It is a geostrophic wind blowing horizontally, at an altitude of 20,000 – 50,000 feet, more likely from west to east.

It blows through the upper layers of the troposphere.

The surface temperature causes air masses of differing temperatures to meet and it develops into Jet Streams.

The speed of the wind velocity inside the jet stream depends upon the temperature difference, the higher the difference the faster the wind velocity and vice-versa.

Source: The Indian Express

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