The month of July in Europe was marked by devastating storms that caused significant damage to agriculture, infrastructure, vehicles, uprooted trees, and even loss of human lives. One particularly notable storm occurred in Slovenia on July 13, lasting more than 12 hours, affecting five countries, including Serbia, and covering a distance of 1,200 to 1,500 kilometers. This storm was one of the longest-lived storms ever monitored in Europe. Another remarkable event took place on July 24 in Azzano Decimo, Italy, where a hailstone with a confirmed diameter of 19 centimeters was discovered, setting a new European record.
These recent storms, classified as supercells, have also impacted Serbia, resulting in extensive damage. The aftermath of these storms required weeks of work by government agencies, insurance companies, and individuals to repair the damage, particularly in the agricultural sector, where entire seasons or multi-year efforts were destroyed within a matter of minutes.
The phenomenon of supercell storms
Supercell storms are unique because of their ability to produce intense weather phenomena, including heavy rainfall, stormy winds, large hailstones, lightning, and even tornadoes. They form in regions like southern Europe due to warm, unstable air rich in water vapor, providing the necessary “fuel” for storms. While the exact impact of climate change on supercell storms remains uncertain due to the complexity of the climate system, it is clear that the planet is warming. With each degree Celsius of warming, there is approximately 7% more water vapor in the atmosphere, potentially increasing the intensity of storms. Whether these storms will become more frequent or more intense in the future remains uncertain. Supercell storms are driven by specific air and water vapor movements. They differ from other storm types due to their strong wind deflection with height, which allows for the efficient use of available “fuel.” These storms can last for several hours and release energy equivalent to an atomic bomb.
Storms in Serbia
The Republic Hydrometeorological Institute (RHMZ) has issued warnings for extremely high temperatures in July in Serbia, particularly in the central and southern regions; these conditions have led to red weather alerts in Šumadija, Pomoravlje, eastern, southeastern, southwestern Serbia, and Kosovo and Metohija, signifying very dangerous weather. The rest of the country was under an orange weather alert, indicating dangerous conditions. The forecast included overcast skies with rain, showers, thunderstorms, and a temperature drop of 10 to 15 degrees Celsius in most areas, with the strong thunderstorms expected, bringing heavy precipitation, hail, and gale-force winds, with the potential for hurricane-force winds exceeding 28 m/s.
Climatologist Goran Pejanović, an assistant director at RHMZ, emphasized the impact of global warming on rising air and ocean temperatures over the last century, with a 1.1-degree Celsius increase in global air temperature and a 0.8-degree Celsius increase in ocean surface temperature. This increase in temperatures contributes to changing weather patterns and the severity of storms.
While it is challenging to predict supercell storms accurately due to their chaotic nature and rapid development, early warning systems and monitoring are essential for protection. Some countries, like the USA, have developed software systems to warn the public of approaching storms and provide instructions on safety measures.
In addition to general protection measures, some regions, including Serbia, employ hail protection methods to mitigate agricultural damage caused by hail. These methods often involve weather modification techniques to reduce the impact of hailstorms on crops.
Serbia and neighboring regions are facing extreme weather conditions, including high temperatures and the threat of severe thunderstorms, hail, and strong winds. Climate change is exacerbating these weather events, posing significant challenges for public safety and infrastructure.