Greece prepares Athens for heatwaves

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The summer heat is hitting sooner and harder than ever across Europe. By 2050, temperatures could be as much as 2.5°C higher than today.

Southern European countries are set to be most impacted by the intense warming.

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Now, as much of Europe faces the consequences of unprecedented heatwaves, Athens in Greece is already preparing for the future.

Last year, the city appointed Eleni Myrivili as its chief heat officer. Her job is to find ways for the Greek capital to cope with ever hotter heatwaves. She is the first and only person in Europe to hold such a position.

Temperatures this week have already hit a scorching 40°C, and Athens has launched its first ‘Heat Alert’ warning residents and visitors of the extreme weather. It’s all part of the city’s plan to deal with the reality of increasingly extreme weather.

The first is focused on raising awareness of the dangers. Athens is analysing data to categorise heatwaves which should lead to the creation of three categories: high, medium and low risk to health.

“It’s a very innovative methodology that we’ve used, and it’s not just meteorological. It has within the categories the particular risk for people’s health.”

The second pillar involves ensuring people are prepared to deal with extreme heat.

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“We have [outlined] several ways of protecting the most vulnerable during heatwaves and supporting the people more exposed to extreme heat,” Athens’ heat officer says.

Finally, Athens is implementing significant green infrastructure improvements to help reduce heat. A project is underway to harness water from an ancient, underground Roman aqueduct to green the city.

It is still operational and drains around 800,000 cubic metres of water into the sea annually. Nothing is currently being done with the water, so Athens hopes to use it to create belts of greenery around the city where the aqueduct flows.

As chief heat officer, Myrivili is ensuring the “heat factor is high on the agenda” with this project.

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