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The world is on fire: Wildfires rage in Greece

August 28, 2023  - By

One month after fire blazed through the Greek island of Rhodes in July 2023, more fires have ripped through Greece amid a heatwave in southern Europe, reported the European Space Agency (ESA).

A Copernicus Sentinel-2 image (Figure 1) shows the ongoing blaze near Alexandroupoli in the Evros region of northeast Greece – close to the Türkiye border.

The satellite image is a blend between a natural color and a shortwave infrared composite to highlight the fire front, which was approximately 70 km long as of August 23. The fire has produced a plume of smoke that stretched 1,600 km southwest towards Tunisia. Burned areas can be seen in the image in dark brown.

Figure 1. (Image: ESA)

Figure 1. (Image: ESA)

The Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission is based on a constellation of two identical satellites, each carrying a wide swath high-resolution multispectral imager with 13 spectral bands for monitoring changes in the Earth’s land and vegetation.

In response to the fires, the Copernicus Emergency Mapping Service has been activated in North Attica, Rodopi, Euboea Island, the Sterea Ellada Region, and East Macedonia. The service uses satellite observations to help civil protection authorities and the international humanitarian community respond efficiently to emergencies.

Greece has experienced daily outbreaks of dozens of fires over the past week as gale-force winds and hot, dry summer conditions combined to whip up flames and hamper firefighting efforts. On August 26, firefighters tackled 122 fires, including 75 that broke out in the 24 hours between August 25 and August 26, the fire department (formally the Hellenic Fire Service) said.

Scientists have warned that climate change and land-use changes are projected to make wildfires more frequent and intense. In response, the ESA has reopened its World Fire Atlas, which provides a detailed analysis and map of wildfires across the globe.

The causes of Greece’s two largest fires have not yet been determined. For some of the smaller blazes, officials have said arson or negligence is suspected, and several people have been arrested, reported NBC News.

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