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WILDFIRES

Europe facing record year for wildfire destruction: EU

Europe's blistering summer may not be over yet, but 2022 is already breaking records, with nearly 660,000 hectares ravaged since January, according to the EU's satellite monitoring service.

Firefighters douse smouldering rubbles in a burnt house in spain
Firefighters douse smouldering rubbles in a burnt house after a wildfire in the Valle del Arlanza, near Burgos in Spain on July 25, 2022. (Photo by CESAR MANSO / AFP)

And while countries on the Mediterranean have normally been the main seats of fires in Europe, this year, other countries are also suffering heavily.

Fires this year have forced people to flee their homes, destroyed buildings and burned forests in EU countries, including Austria, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Some 659,541 hectares (1.6 million acres) have been destroyed so far, data from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) showed, setting a record at this point in the year since data collection began in 2006.

Europe has suffered a series of heatwaves, forest fires and historic drought that experts say are being driven by human-induced climate change.

They warn more frequent and longer heatwaves are on the way.

The worst-affected country has been Spain, where fire has destroyed 244,924 hectares, according to EFFIS data.

The EFFIS uses satellite data from the EU’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS).

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How the climate crisis is hitting Europe hard

The data comes after CAMS said Friday that 2022 was a record year for wildfire activity in southwestern Europe and warned that a large proportion of western Europe was now in “extreme fire danger”.

“2022 is already a record year, just below 2017,” EFFIS coordinator Jesus San-Miguel said. In 2017, 420,913 hectares had burned by August 13, rising to 988,087 hectares by the end of the year.

“The situation in terms of drought and extremely high temperatures has affected all of Europe this year and the overall situation in the region is worrying, while we are still in the middle of the fire season,” he said.

Since 2010, there had been a trend towards more fires in central and northern Europe, with fires in countries that “normally do not experience fires in their territory”, he added.

“The overall fire season in the EU is really driven mainly by countries in the Mediterranean region, except in years like this one, in which fires also happen in central and northern regions,” he added.

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WEATHER

Northern Lights likely to be visible over large parts of Norway this weekend

Large parts of Norway may be treated to the presence of the Northern Lights and the natural phenomenon could be visible as far south as Kristiansand, according to forecasts.

Northern Lights likely to be visible over large parts of Norway this weekend

Residents in southern Norway could have a chance to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights this weekend, forecasters have said.

The KP index will be between five and six this weekend, according to several forecasting sites. The northern parts of the Earth are divided into KP zones. The zones range from one to nine. For example, Tromsø, in the north, is in KP1 and Oslo in the southeast is in KP4.

The stronger the geomagnetic activity, the higher the KP number, and the further south the lights can be seen. KP5 and above is considered a geomagnetic storm.

A KP index of six means that there is a good chance that the lights will be visible even further south than Oslo.

However, a KP Index isn’t the only factor that determine whether you get to set your sights on the elusive lights. Instead, you will need some help from the weather forecast. Cloud coverage and light pollution hinder chances of seeing the lights.

Meteorologist Eldbjørg Moxnes told public broadcaster NRK that Saturday and the early hours of Sunday may be the best day to try and spot the Northern Lights.

“The best opportunities will probably be in the north as it looks now. It is a bit unfortunate that it will be cloudy until Saturday night in the south. A front is coming in from the west,” she said NRK.

During the early hours of Sunday morning, the clouds will break giving residents in Telemark and Buskerud a chance to see the lights.

Although, for those dismayed by the potential cloud coverage Moxnes did have some reassuring words.

“The cloud cover forecast is relatively uncertain several days ahead. Hope is probably not completely lost, here you just have to keep an eye on it in the short term,” she said.

In the longer term, the Northern Lights could become a more frequent occurrence over the next few years as the sun becomes more active after a few dormant years, according to an earlier NRK report.

READ MORE: How to take the best pictures of the Northern Lights

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