Sahara Dust Envelops Athens, Sparks Unseasonal Greek Wildfires

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On a peculiar Tuesday, the skies over southern Greece were set ablaze in an orange glow as vibrant dust clouds, hitching a ride on brisk Mediterranean winds from North Africa, smothered the Acropolis, along with other cherished landmarks of Athens. The fine grit, swept generously from the expansive reaches of the Sahara Desert, draped the atmosphere of the Greek capital in a surreal, Martian-like filter as daylight dwindled.

The ethereal sands are forecast to lift their vibrant siege on Wednesday, as winds, like whimsical artists, shift their canvas and direct the dust elsewhere, bringing with them a chillier forecast. On this unusual day, the recorded high on parts of the southern island of Crete heated to 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit), a temperature spike over 20 degrees C higher than those logged in the chillier northern regions of Greece.

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This robust surge of southerly winds did not dance through the country without leaving its footprint. In their wake, unseasonal wildfires have sparked to life in the south, a fiery reminder of the evident climate disruption.

Echoing the fiery skies, Greece’s fire service reported on Tuesday evening that a total of 25 wildfires had flared up across the country in the past 24 hours. Three individuals found themselves in custody on the Aegean Sea’s luxe resort island of Paros, under suspicion of inadvertently igniting a scrub blaze on Monday. Fortunately, significant damage and injuries eluded the reach of the fires, and the blaze was rapidly corralled.

Elsewhere, efficient firefighting managed to rein in another blazoning inferno that had erupted on Crete near a naval base earlier that Tuesday.

Summer in Greece often faces devastating, and tragically, sometimes lethal forest fires. In the previous year, the country bore the burdensome record of experiencing the largest wildfire within the European Union’s borders in over two decades. With the memory of the catastrophic flames still fresh, and a concoction of persistent drought and high spring temperatures brewing, concerns mount over the looming challenges firefighting teams may need to combat in the coming fiery summer months.