Heatwaves around Mediterranean have damaged harvests and forced producers to import from South America
Europe has almost run out of local olive oil supplies and is set for more shortages, after extreme weather damaged harvests for a second year.
The world’s largest producer has said it is having to import supplies from South America to keep up with demand.
“Today it is almost physically impossible to buy olive oil. It is sold out,” Walter Zanre, the chief executive of the UK arm of Filippo Berio, said.
Olive trees have been cultivated around the Mediterranean for thousands of years, with Spain alone producing half of the world’s supply of olive oil, but wildfires and soaring summer temperatures mean the future of this ancient industry is looking increasingly uncertain.
Global production is expected to fall to 2.4m tonnes according to the International Olive Council, less than last year’s harvest and well short of global demand of about 3m tonnes, after drought and heatwaves of more than 40 degrees hit production in Spain.
Extreme weather in other important growing regions including Greece, Italy and Portugal as well as Turkey and Morocco has added to the crisis.
Recent images of the devastating flash floods caused by Storm Daniel in Greece hit close to home literally and figuratively. As a Greek who has completed a PhD and worked for the past eight years on flash floods, the scenes unfolding across my homeland are painfully real: a stark reminder of the broader environmental challenges we face both on a local and a global scale.
These unprecedented flash floods were triggered by rainfall from the arrival of Storm Daniel on Monday September 4 which also affected Turkey and Bulgaria. The following day, in the village of Zagora, a record-breaking 754mm of rain fell in just 18 hours, leaving parts of the region of Thessaly in crisis and unable to respond.
To put this in perspective, London gets about 585mm of rain over the course of a year while Thessaly gets 495mm, meaning that on Tuesday September 5, about 1.5 years’ worth of rain fell in 18 hours. Imagine the most torrential rain you have ever experienced, perhaps a cloudburst lasting 20 minutes or so. Now imagine it raining that hard but without pause for an entire day.
Flash flooding is short in duration but extremely intense, and typically happens within six hours of heavy rainfall. Unlike regular floods, which develop more slowly and can be predicted in advance, flash floods catch people off guard due to their rapid onset and are rarely recorded in the field.
Across the three affected countries the floods have killed at least 18 people, with many others seeking refuge on their rooftops. There are ongoing power and water outages, infrastructure has been damaged, houses and even entire villages have been completely submerged.
I asked Andrew Barnes, an academic at the University of Bath with expertise in using AI to analyse extreme events why this event was so exceptional. He told me that throughout Tuesday, a strong low-pressure centre formed across the south of Greece creating a large rotating weather system known as a cyclone.
This cyclone carried large rain clouds from both the Mediterranean and Aegean Sea between Greece and Turkey. But it did not dissipate, and instead its low-pressure centre moved southwest and settled just south of Italy, with its bands of rain clouds also moving south and covering most of mainland Greece.
Trending across the region
It is crucial to emphasise that flash floods are not confined to Greece alone. They are in fact part of a broader pattern of extreme weather that has become more intense and frequent across the Mediterranean region.
Researchers who looked at 150 years of flood data in the Mediterranean found that most were flash floods, with their highest occurrence during the summer and autumn months. The region is particularlysusceptible to these floods due to the combined effects of climate change and urbanisation. The latter has increased urban development in flood-prone areas and increased impervious surfaces (like roads and pavements), preventing the natural absorption of water into the ground.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s chapter on the Mediterranean region issued a warning that extreme rainfall events are going to occur more often and be even more intense, elevating the risk of flash floods. This warning, in combination with records of flash floods in 2023 in Spain, Italy, Turkey, Bulgaria, France and Greece, underscores the urgent need for proactive measures to address these climate-related challenges.
Research is advancing
Flash floods might be rare, but they are severe enough to be a matter of significant concern. Fortunately, research has advanced considerably in recent years. We’re now better able to forecast when flash floods might happen, which areas might be susceptible, and to assess their impact in real-time.
My colleagues and I are working on a project that combines historical documentary sources and modern hydraulic modelling. This way we can shed light on past floods and better understand the risks they pose, helping us design effective mitigation strategies for the future. Practically, in the case of a flash flood some basic but very important actions can be found on the poster below.
A complete eradication of flooding is neither technically feasible nor economically affordable. Instead on a larger scale it is key to start identifying flash-flood prone areas especially in catchments with historical flash floods. We should then focus on advocating for climate action and resilience measures, which can be anything from “hard” defences like new flood walls, through to policies and better public awareness of the risks. Only this will offer hope of a safer and more resilient future.
Don’t have time to read about climate change as much as you’d like?
THE death toll from Monday’s devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria has soared above 5,000, with some experts predicting that the tally could reach as high as 20,000.
Thousands of people have been injured by the magnitude 7.8 earthquake but many more have yet to be accounted for.
Search teams and emergency aid from 30 countries poured into the affected areas on Tuesday as rescuers dug through the remains of buildings flattened by the earthquake and the reported staggering 145 aftershocks.
But with the damage spread over a wide area, the massive relief operation has struggled to reach devastated towns and voices that had been crying out from the rubble fell silent.
The UK government is today discussing joining the Western alliance bombing Syria.
After doing an evening’s research last night I almost feel like an expert on Syria and Daesh/ISIL. I also get regular updates from Juan Cole’s Informed Comment which is an excellent resource. It’s important to check internet sources since there are some misleading accounts out there.
It is only since Russia recently commenced air strikes supporting Syria that Daesh/ISIS/ISIL’s illicit oil trading business has been targeted. Russia accuses Turkey of facilitating and profiting from this illicit trade while also supporting Daesh/ISIS/ISIL militants. There are accounts of strange deaths of journalists in Turkey and associated support of the Daesh/ISIS/ISIL militants by Turkey’s MIT secret service.
That it is only recently that Daesh/ISIS/ISIL financing has been targeted by Russia suggests that it was accepted by the coalition allegedly fighting Daesh/ISIS/ISIL i.e. Daesh was tolerated as it attacked the Syrian regime.
ed: Aren’t those who engage in terrorism terrorists?
A declassified secret US government document obtained by the conservative public interest law firm, Judicial Watch, shows that Western governments deliberately allied with al-Qaeda and other Islamist extremist groups to topple Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad.
The document reveals that in coordination with the Gulf states and Turkey, the West intentionally sponsored violent Islamist groups to destabilize Assad, and that these “supporting powers” desired the emergence of a “Salafist Principality” in Syria to “isolate the Syrian regime.”
According to the newly declassified US document, the Pentagon foresaw the likely rise of the ‘Islamic State’ as a direct consequence of this strategy, and warned that it could destabilize Iraq. Despite anticipating that Western, Gulf state and Turkish support for the “Syrian opposition” — which included al-Qaeda in Iraq — could lead to the emergence of an ‘Islamic State’ in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the document provides no indication of any decision to reverse the policy of support to the Syrian rebels. On the contrary, the emergence of an al-Qaeda affiliated “Salafist Principality” as a result is described as a strategic opportunity to isolate Assad.
The newly declassified DIA document from 2012 confirms that the main component of the anti-Assad rebel forces by this time comprised Islamist insurgents affiliated to groups that would lead to the emergence of ISIS. Despite this, these groups were to continue receiving support from Western militaries and their regional allies.
Noting that “the Salafist [sic], the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI [al-Qaeda in Iraq] are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria,” the document states that “the West, Gulf countries, and Turkey support the opposition,” while Russia, China and Iran “support the [Assad] regime.”
The 7-page DIA document states that al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), the precursor to the ‘Islamic State in Iraq,’ (ISI) which became the ‘Islamic State in Iraq and Syria,’ “supported the Syrian opposition from the beginning, both ideologically and through the media.”
The formerly secret Pentagon report notes that the “rise of the insurgency in Syria” has increasingly taken a “sectarian direction,” attracting diverse support from Sunni “religious and tribal powers” across the region.
In a section titled ‘The Future Assumptions of the Crisis,’ the DIA report predicts that while Assad’s regime will survive, retaining control over Syrian territory, the crisis will continue to escalate “into proxy war.”
The document also recommends the creation of “safe havens under international sheltering, similar to what transpired in Libya when Benghazi was chosen as the command centre for the temporary government.”
The conventional wisdom is that the US government did not retain sufficient oversight on the funding to anti-Assad rebel groups, which was supposed to be monitored and vetted to ensure that only ‘moderate’ groups were supported.
However, the newly declassified Pentagon report proves unambiguously that years before ISIS launched its concerted offensive against Iraq, the US intelligence community was fully aware that Islamist militants constituted the core of Syria’s sectarian insurgency.
Despite that, the Pentagon continued to support the Islamist insurgency, even while anticipating the probability that doing so would establish an extremist Salafi stronghold in Syria and Iraq.
As Shoebridge told me, “The documents show that not only did the US government at the latest by August 2012 know the true extremist nature and likely outcome of Syria’s rebellion” — namely, the emergence of ISIS — “but that this was considered an advantage for US foreign policy. This also suggests a decision to spend years in an effort to deliberately mislead the West’s public, via a compliant media, into believing that Syria’s rebellion was overwhelmingly ‘moderate.’”
It’s clear that Russia’s bombardment of jihadi groups operating near the Turkish-Syrian border has Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan worried. Erdogan has long hoped that the area would be turned into a Safe Zone where Sunni militants– committed to removing Assad from power– could receive weapons and other support from their sponsors while coming and going as they pleased. The Russian-led coalition’s attempt to retake the area and seal the border to stop the flow of terrorists from Turkey, is probably what precipitated the attack on the Russian warplane. It was a desperate attempt to wave-off the Russian offensive and reverse the course of the war which has turned decisively in Assad’s favor. As for the militant groups that are operating in this area, analyst Pepe Escobar sums it up like this in a recent post at Sputnik News:
“The Su-24s were actually after Chechens and Uzbeks — plus a few Uyghurs — smuggled in with fake Turkish passports (Chinese intel is also on it), all of these operating in tandem with a nasty bunch of Turkish Islamo-fascists. Most of these goons transit back and forth between the CIA-weaponized Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Jabhat al-Nusra. These were the goons who machine-gunned the Russian pilots as they parachuted down after the hit on the Su-24….
Turkey, for all practical purposes, has been a handy, sprawling Salafi-jihadi Infrastructure and Logistics Center; it offers everything from porous borders enabling countless jihadi return tickets from Syria to Europe, facilitated by corrupt police, to a convenient crossroads for all kinds of smuggling and a hefty money laundering ops.” (Sultan Erdogan’s War on…Russia, Pepe Escobar, Sputnik)
Escobar sums up Ankara’s role in Syria as succinctly as anyone. Erdogan has been ISIS best friend, of that, there is little doubt. The problem that Turkey faces now is that the Russian-led coalition is rapidly destroying the infrastructure that provides funding for ISIS, (oil refineries, fields and transport) while gradually retaking territory that was formally-controlled by the many anti-regime or al Qaida-linked groups in the north, west and central parts of the country. In the last few days alone, Russia and Co. have concluded the encirclement of Syria’s biggest city, Aleppo, vaporized a convoy of over 500 oil trucks in the vicinity of Raqqa, and intensified their bombing in the Turkmen Mountains, the Kurdish Mountains, and the Prophet Jonah Mountains. The coalition has moved as far north as Azaz along the Turkish border and recaptured the strategic Aleppo-Raqqa highway which completely cuts off ISIS supply-route from the east in Raqqa. All of the recent progress comes in the wake of the retaking of the strategic Kuweris Airbase which was the tipping point in the 4 and a half year-long conflict. Now the Russian coalition has focused on closing the border, a move that will sever vital supply-lines to pro-Turkish militias operating in Syria and force the terrorists to either flee or surrender. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov emphasized this point last week saying, “We are convinced that by blocking the border we will in many respects solve the tasks to eradicate terrorism on Syrian soil.”
Keep in mind, that Erdogan is not the only one with designs on the so-called “Afrin-Jarabulus corridor” east of the Euphrates. Powerful politicians in the US, including John McCain, Lindsay Graham, Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton and others, have all alluded to this area as the most suitable location for a no-fly zone. And, despite the fact that Obama refuses to send US ground forces to fight in Syria, he has continued to fuel the conflict in other less conspicuous ways. Just last Wednesday, under the cover of the Thanksgiving holiday when the media was preoccupied with other matters, Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016 which provides another $800 million in aid to armed extremists in Syria and Ukraine. The NDAA, which effectively prevents the closing down of US concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo), reflects Obama’s determination to continue Washington’s vicious policy in Syria which has resulted in the deaths of more than 250,000 and the displacement of 11 million more.
This helps to explain why the Russian offensive has set alarms off in Washington; it’s because the US plan to establish a permanent staging ground for terrorists in N Syria is quickly going up in smoke.