A burst of desert air swept from northern Africa into southeast Europe over the weekend, bringing temperatures more akin to August than May. Readings above 35°C (95°F) were widespread across Greece on Saturday. The city of Argos (one of the world’s oldest) reported a high of 40.6°C (105.1°F), which ties a 40.6°C reading set in nearby Astros in May 1988 for the warmest May temperature on record for Greece. The Athens airport notched its highest temperature ever recorded so early in the year: 33.4°C (92.1°F) on Saturday, beating 32.6°C from May 13, 2007.
Monthly records are especially impressive when they manage to occur toward the front end of a transition-season month such as May. Friday was one of the hottest days ever recorded in northern Africa for the first half of May, said international weather records expert Maximiliano Herrera. A high of 47.0°C (116.6°F) was reported in Zuara, Libya, where the all-time national high is 45.7°C for April and 49.9°F for May. Tripoli’s airport officially hit 45.0°C (113°F), and nearby personal weather stations reported highs close to 48°C (118°F).
A localized but intense forest fire killed one person and injured two others on Sunday near the town of Agioi Theodoroi, about 40 miles west of Athens. According to Reuters, several dozen firefighters with 32 fire engines and six aircraft battled the flames, which had died down by early evening. Forest fires are a perennial threat during the hot, dry Greek summer, but such fires are quite unusual in mid-spring.