Return of Hamburg’s Alster swans signals start of springtime

Hamburg’s famous Alster swans returned to the water few weeks late on Monday as this year's brutally long winter prepared to give way to springtime temperatures this week.

Return of Hamburg's Alster swans signals start of springtime
Giddy up, birds! Photo: DPA

After more than four months in their winter quarters, Hamburg’s “swan father” Olaf Nieß lead several boats to move 120 birds to the port city’s outer Alster lake.

The animals will now be able to find sufficient food on their own, a spokesperson from the Hamburg-Nord district said.

At the end of the November the swans made their traditional trek to their winter retreat in the Eppendorf district’s mill pond, which is kept free of ice year round.

They have been a part of the city landscape since the 11th Century, under the care of a “swan father” – Hamburg’s oldest municipal post – since 1674.

The birds now grace the Hamburg city emblem, and their return to the Alster signals the start of spring each year.

After weeks of cool, rainy weather, the German Weather Service (DWD) predicted Monday that temperatures would rise as high as 16 degrees Celsius by mid-week.

Tuesday will be cloudy and rainy in most of the country, with temperatures topping out between eight and 11 degrees, though snow could still fall above 1,000 metres.

While it will still likely be cloudy in northern and western regions with rain in the south, the thermometer will read as high as 15 degrees.

Meanwhile Thursday will be slightly warmer, with highs of 16 degrees expected in the Lower Rhine region, the DWD reported.

Click here for The Local’s weather forecast.

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2022 sees record wildfire destruction in Europe: EU

Europe's blistering summer may not be over yet, but 2022 is already breaking records, with nearly 660,000 hectares ravaged since January, according to the EU's satellite monitoring service.

2022 sees record wildfire destruction in Europe: EU

And while countries on the Mediterranean have normally been the main seats of fires in Europe, this year, other countries are also suffering heavily.

Fires this year have forced people to flee their homes, destroyed buildings and burned forests in EU countries, including Austria, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Some 659,541 hectares (1.6 million acres) have been destroyed so far, data from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) showed, setting a record at this point in the year since data collection began in 2006.

Europe has suffered a series of heatwaves, forest fires and historic drought that experts say are being driven by human-induced climate change.

They warn more frequent and longer heatwaves are on the way.

The worst-affected country has been Spain, where fire has destroyed 244,924 hectares, according to EFFIS data.

The EFFIS uses satellite data from the EU’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS).

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How the climate crisis is hitting Europe hard

The data comes after CAMS said Friday that 2022 was a record year for wildfire activity in southwestern Europe and warned that a large proportion of western Europe was now in “extreme fire danger”.

“2022 is already a record year, just below 2017,” EFFIS coordinator Jesus San-Miguel said. In 2017, 420,913 hectares had burned by August 13, rising to 988,087 hectares by the end of the year.

“The situation in terms of drought and extremely high temperatures has affected all of Europe this year and the overall situation in the region is worrying, while we are still in the middle of the fire season,” he said.

Since 2010, there had been a trend towards more fires in central and northern Europe, with fires in countries that “normally do not experience fires in their territory”, he added.

“The overall fire season in the EU is really driven mainly by countries in the Mediterranean region, except in years like this one, in which fires also happen in central and northern regions,” he added.