espere ESPERE-ENC working area - preliminary unevaluated websitesEnvironmental Science Published for Everyobody Round the Earth
Printer friendly version of this page
[Master Home]    English Sitemap    [Master Sitemap]   
Food & Climate
1. Plants and climate
2. The climate change issue
3. Drought in the Mediterranean
- what is drought?
- causes & types of drought
- drought and fire
* Worksheet 1
* Worksheet 2
* Worksheet 3



Food & Climate 

Read more

Worksheet: Fires

Sheet 3: Forest Fires in Southern Europe 2003




1. Forest Fires in Portugal 2003

In Summer 2003 there was an enourmous heatwave on the northern hemisphere. The heatwave affected much of Europe, causing forest fires and a number of deaths across the Continent.

In Portugal the heatwave was the hottest and longest recorded ever. It fanned the country’s worst forest fires in more than 20 years, with an area almost as big as Luxembourg destroyed and at least 15 people killed in blazes. 250 square kilometers of arable crop were burnt and 45.000 people lost either their job or their belongings. Consequently Portugal has declared a national disaster due to the fires.

On September 15th the newsmagazin planetark (by Reuters) writes as follows:

“ Smoke Blankets Lisbon as Forest Fires Rake Portugal (PORTUGAL: September 15, 2003)

LISBON - More than 1,000 firefighters battled to control forest blazes in Portugal on the weekend including two that blanketed the capital Lisbon in smoke.

With Portugal already facing its worst forest fire season on record, Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso blamed an upsurge this week on arson.
"Things are very difficult when the firefighters put out fires and criminal hands light them," he said in remarks carried on private TSF radio. Durao Barroso vowed a complete investigation.

A spokesman for the National Emergency Operations Center said firefighters were trying to contain three blazes, including one in coastal mountains about 120 miles south of Lisbon. Fires in Loures, about 10 miles north of central Lisbon, and in Mafra, about 25 miles north of the capital, wreathed Lisbon in smoke by late afternoon.

Lisbon firefighters were flooded by hundreds of calls about the smoke, Lusa news agency reported.

"This is bad," said Jose da Silva Antunes, 65, as he peered through the eye-stinging haze that replaced Lisbon's normal late-summer sunshine.

"I've seen really thick smoke before, but nothing like this year."

The blazes have been fanned by heat that neared 99 degrees Fahrenheit in Lisbon on the weekend. The weather service forecast a slight drop in temperatures in coming days.

Fires have destroyed about 11 percent of Portugal's forests for the year through August 31, according to the Agriculture Ministry. At least 18 people have died in fires this year.



The following satellite picture from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Aqua satellite, taken on August 4, 2003, shows the fires, which flared up between morning and afternoon quite well:



image source:
Image courtesy Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC

Who or what is the most probable reason for the disastrous forest fires? Discuss!



2. Forest Fires in Southern France 2003

Forest fires have swept through scenic woodlands along the French Riviera on the country’s Mediterranean coastline, killing five people, destroying scenic forests and forcing thousands to evacuate the region. This image shows the Maures hills region along the coast of southeast France on July 28, 2003. A dark brown burn scar is evident to the northeast of the apex of the coastline, which is roughly centered in the image. Left of center (to the east of the lake) is the city of Marseille.

(Text by:


image source:
Image Acquired July 28, 2003 (modiefied by Julia Heres)


Write the names (French Riviera, Mediterranean coastline, Marseille, Nizza, Genova, Rhone and Cannes) into the white field and draw arrows from the field to the exact place of location.



3. Forest Fires in Southern Italy 2003

Record-setting heat has been plaguing southern Italy this summer, increasing the fire danger across the country. This image shows numerous fires detected and marked with red dots. Dust from the Sahara Desert hangs over the southwest part of the scene, softening the appearance of Tunisia , Sardinia and Sicily.
(July 24th 2003) Image courtesy Jesse Allen, based on data from the MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC


Write the names (Sahara Desert dust, Tunisia, Sardinia, Italy, Corsica and Sicily) into the white fields and draw arrows from the field to the exact place of the location or direction in case of the Sahara Desert dust.



About this page:

- Author: Dr. Schleicher - University of Nürnberg - Germany
- scientific reviewing:
- educational reviewing: Dr. Schrettenbrunner / J. Heres
- last update: 25.11.03




last updated 11.07.2005 11:32:58 | © ESPERE-ENC 2003 - 2013