Hours after this photo was taken at a wedding on an idyllic Greek beach, with not a cloud in the sky, catastrophe struck.
The wedding in early September was that of my son and his fiancée. For months we had been joking about our Big Fat Greek Wedding. I even wrote a light-hearted blog about trying to find a sustainable wedding outfit. How shallow that article seems now.
I will always be grateful that the wedding went beautifully, because just hours after we went to bed that night we were woken by torrential rain, howling gales, thunder and lightning. We thought it was a storm typical of hot countries and that it would soon pass. But it didn’t pass. The next day as the rain and gales continued, we joked that our Big Fat Greek Wedding had narrowly avoided being a Big Wet Greek Wedding.
The storm appeared to abate only to gather reinforcements and return worse than before. On the second night I stood by the landing window in the early hours – it was impossible to sleep – gazing in fear at nature’s power, wondering if the trees and power lines would hold. I had been in storms before on holiday but this felt different, it was truly frightening.
The first we knew of the wider situation was when friends and family at home started messaging us asking if we were OK, sending footage of landslides, bridge collapses and severed water supplies. This was the first we knew of the devastation that Storm Daniel had brought. Until then we had been thinking we were unlucky to be experiencing torrential rainfall when the locals told us apologetically that it hadn’t rained since the 10th of June. Seeing what had befallen others however, we realised we weren’t unlucky at all, we were actually very, very lucky. As our son and daughter-in-law set off on honeymoon, we heard about another couple of newlyweds on honeymoon in Greece who had been swept away in their holiday home by floods.
Most people see the link between devastating weather patterns and global warming. So I was shocked on our return home when talking to someone who expressed the view that there had ‘always been storms and always been forest fires’ so the extreme weather of the summer was nothing new.
Surely there are very few people now who believe this. The Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis described the storm, which followed a summer of devastating wildfires, as ‘a phenomenon unlike any other we have seen in the past.’
Climate scientists warn that global warming means more water evaporating during summer months, leading to more intense storms. Storm Daniel has been described as the deadliest Mediterranean tropical-like cyclone in recorded history. It was Greece’s costliest recorded storm, wreaking damage estimated at two billion euros. As it spread through Turkey, Bulgaria and Libya, it left many thousands dead, missing and injured, not counting lost livestock and agricultural land.
It’s yet more evidence of the urgent need for change. It’s frustrating and depressing when people deny climate change because we all need to act together doing what we can where we can.
The data on climate crisis can be overwhelming to non-scientists, so climatologist Ed Hawkins came up with this graph to portray global warming visually.
The Warming Stripes graph uses a series of coloured stripes arranged chronologically to illustrate long-term temperature trends as a way of showing global warming. It shows the progression from blue (cooler) to red (warmer) showing the long-term increase of average global temperature from 1850 (left of graphic) to 2018 (right side).
It’s an image of global warming that is hard to argue with. The worst mistake we can make is to deny the climate crisis is happening. The second worst is to think there’s nothing we can do about it.
As the saying goes: It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can do only a little.
The little that each of us can do every day adds up to a lot.