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The 2007 Bulgarianmarker heat wave was a record-breaking weather phenomenon that began in late July 2007 with maximum temperatures reaching all-time highs of 46 °C (114 °F) in Southern Bulgariamarker. The record heat exacerbated already present record-breaking drought conditions in much of the country, allowing wild fires to rage out of control for several days.

The extreme heat and wildfires destroyed hundreds of acres of forest and caused animal and human deaths, and destruction of property.


In a 'normal' summer, such as the summer of 2006, the Atlantic jetstream directs areas of low pressure, which bring cloud and rain, to the north of the UK. High pressure systems over Europe and the Atlantic bring warm, settled conditions.

In the summer of 2007, however, the jetstream flowed further south allowing low pressure systems to sweep straight over the centre of Britain. It pulled in warmer air from the sub-tropics and Africa which swept over south-eastern Europe. Fine particles of dust were carried high into the atmosphere making the sun look red at sunset and sunrise. The moon also appeared red.

Timeline of events

On Thursday 19 July the Bulgarian National Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology issued a warning that a heat wave was imminent over the weekend with temperatures in excess of 40°C.

On Friday July 20, temperatures started to rise as a large area of high pressure started moving in from the south-west. The extremely hot and dry air mass was moving in from North Africa, over the Mediterranean Seamarker where it was gradually transformed by absorbing moisture. Still, temperatures at lower altitudes were in excess of 38 °C.

On Saturday July 21, temperatures during the day soared to 39 °C in Sandanskimarker, Plevenmarker, Vidinmarker and many other places. There was a moderate east wind.

Around noon reports started coming in of multiple wildfires burning in the country. Dry grass and forest were equally affected. The largest fire burnt in the forest near Stara Zagoramarker causing air pollution to the city.

Late on Saturday evening, the mayor of Stara Zagora issued a state of emergency in the region. Whole neighbourhoods had to be evacuated in case the fire spread to the city.

On Sunday July 22 the highest recorded temperature was in the southern town of Sandanski at 41.5 °C. Wildfires continued to burn on Monday, when all cities and towns in Northern Bulgaria along the Danube River recorded temperatures in excess of 40 °C. The town of Sandanski was the hottest on Monday with the record-breaking 43 °C.

The heat wave peaked on Tuesday, July 23 when temperatures reached a sweltering 46 °C. In Petrichmarker near the border with Greecemarker 60 people were taken to hospital suffering heat-related illness (hyperthermia) and dehydration. It was already 43 °C at 1 pm and by late afternoon the local meteorologists reported a high of 46 °C. That was and still remains the highest temperature ever recorded in the country.

On Wednesday, a cold front blew in from the west bringing temporary relief as temperatures plummeted by eight to ten degrees.


2007 was the warmest year on record according to scientists from the National Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology. Records were being broken daily during the period. Temperatures remained high during the night hours as well, as heat was trapped close to the Earth's surface by the strong anticyclone. Residents of the capital Sofiamarker, where concrete buildings take time to cool and construction is very dense, went to bed while it was 30 °C outside. This phenomenon is called an urban heat island.

City Highest temperature
recorded or forecast
Date achieved
or projected
Normal temperature Deviation
from normal
Sofiamarker 39 °C July 24 25 °C +14 °C
Vidinmarker 43 °C July 24 25 °C + 18 °C
Varnamarker 41 °C July 24 24 °C + 17 °C
Burgasmarker 40.2 °C July 24 24 °C +16.2 °C
Veliko Tarnovomarker 42.8 °C July 24 24 °C +18.8 °C
Sandanskimarker 45 °C July 24 26 °C +19 °C
Petrichmarker 46 °C July 24 26 °C +20 °C

Health effects

Emergency services were inundated with hundreds of calls from people suffering from heat stroke, dehydration and headache. In Sofiamarker alone 140 people fainted in the streets on Saturday.


At least eight deaths were directly attributed to the extreme temperatures. Most of the victims were elderly people suffering from chronic diseases. Six people were killed in the fires that started on Saturday and that continued well into the next week.


There were an estimated 1,530 cases of fire in just four days (Friday 20 - Tuesday 24 July, 2007). That's three times the yearly average.

Fires raged in almost every corner of the country but the largest fire was near Stara Zagoramarker where 20 square miles (50 km²) of pine forest burned uncontrollably for three days. Firefighters were unable to put out the fire by conventional means. Strong winds and the extremely dry air quickly sparked new fires and by Sunday the situation was out of control. The government turned for help to Russia and Be-200 amphibious water bomber flew in on Saturday to help fight the blaze near Stara Zagora. On Monday, more fires broke out but the one near Stara Zagora was contained. The fire caused extensive damage to the forest and wild life. Estimates vary but this fire alone caused at least two million euros worth of damage.

Links to global warming

Temperatures in excess of 45 °C had never previously been recorded in Bulgaria. The country generally has a temperate climate. Although temperatures reach around 40 °C every summer this usually lasts for just a few days whereas this heat wave lasted for more than a week. Meteorologists from the national Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology announced 2007 to be the hottest year on record.However, they were careful to say that no clear link between global warming and the 2007 Bulgarian heatwave could be established.


See also

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