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Greek holidays about to get hotter

- by Jeremy Guest

Tourist holiday hotspots in the Greek Islands are likely to get hotter still if forecasts by climate experts turn out to be true.

Climatologists warn that Greece is likely to sizzle with 'extremely high summer temperatures' by the end of the century and an 'increasing intensity and duration of heatwaves'.

As an example, experts cite that the hottest summer on record in Athens in 2007, when temperatures topped 46°C will be among the coolest by the end of the century.

A new report warns that the Greek government must prepare to implement strategies now if it is to deal with the negative effects of climate change.

A recent study by the Bank of Greece focuses on the economic effects on Greece of climate change and especially the impact on tourism, now Greece's biggest money spinner.

The report, titled 'Greek tourism and climate change: adaptation policies and strategic development' calls on the government to implement preventative policies to help the country adapt to the changing reality.

Drawn up by experts in the field of climatology, the report stresses the need to develop alternative forms of tourism, revise the span of the tourist season and to improve services all year round.

Climate change could have a dramatic impact on Greece

Plenty of sunshine, warm seas and golden sand beaches are the main attraction for the record numbers of tourists that opt for a Greek Island holiday each year.

But climate change could have a more dramatic impact on Greece than many other countries as tourist visitors drive up demand for scarce resources.

A report from the Centre for Climate Adaptation warns that the intensity, length and number of heatwaves In the eastern Mediterranean have already increased by a factor of six to eight since the 1960s.

The data from weather stations inAthens and Corfu shows the trend continuing with a further increase in the duration of heatwaves during the summer while cool, wet winters become much less frequent.

"Recent studies have shown an increasing tendency of dry spell length during the last two decades in Eastern Mediterranean, which extends from the Ionian Sea to the Cyprus area," the report says.

And it warns of much less rainfall to fill reservoirs during the winter months and the prospect of severe water shortages on many Greek Islands during the summer months.

"Longer dry spells are expected in all seasons, except autumn, with the largest increase in the southern part of the area. Extreme wet spells will shorten everywhere during all seasons, except autumn. Precipitation intensity was found reduced for all seasons and mostly for summer in South Aegean Sea," the report adds.

Heatwaves could spell the end for endangered species

The World Wildlife Fund is another organisation that is worried about the effect of climate change on Greece and the Greek islands.

An Assessment Report found:" Southern Greece could be one of the regions most affected by increase in year-to-year variability in summer climates and thus a higher incidence of heatwaves and droughts. Mediterranean droughts would start earlier in the year and last longer."

WWF experts forecast a 'flattening' of the tourist season by 2030 and an increase in demand for ever scarcer water resources as the tourist summer season lengthens.

The WWF is also very concerned at the effect of hotter summers and a rise in seas levels on the endangered Mediterranean marine turtle which is found in the seas off many Greek islands.

Experts warn that climate change threatens to compound all other threats to marine turtles and potentially push some species over the brink of extinction by threatening their long-term survival.

The Bank of Greece report suggest a series of measures to offset the impact of hotter summers and warmer winters.

It spells out key preventative measures to protect the tourist industry from the worst effects including strengthening entrepreneurship, developing and improving infrastructure, gaining more know-how and skills, doing away with seasonality, providing all areas of the country with development opportunities and organizing destination-specific structured activities.

Athens' 2007 heatwave just a taste of things to come

Many holidaymakers may remember the severe heatwave that struck the Eastern Mediterranean in 2007 when temperatures rocketed from the average 37°C to 44°C.

Greece bore the brunt of the heatwave as temperatures in Athens hit 46.2°C in late June and soaring demand for electricity for running air conditioners triggered a near collapse of supplies and power cuts in many districts and suburbs of Athens and Thessaloniki.

A total of 18 people died from heat exhaustion while over 100 wildfires swept across the tinder dry countryside. By late July, temperatures again rose to more than 40°C seriously affecting agriculture, forestry and electricity supplies.

According to the Smithsonian Institute an ensemble of regional climate model simulations undertaken for the European indicate that summer 2007 reflects the daily maximum temperatures that are projected to occur in Greece in the latter part of the 21st century.

A report in the journal Global and Planetary Change warned that an analysis of temperature data from Greece indicates "the abnormally hot summer of 2007 is perhaps not the proof but a strong indicator of what eastern Mediterranean summers could resemble in future".