Climatologist: This Year’s Heatwave in Bulgaria Is Longest since 2007

July is the warmest month in Bulgaria so very high daily temperatures of 35C to 40C and long-lasting heatwaves are normal, climatologist Dr Simeon Matev says in an interview for BTA. He adds, however, that this year’s heatwave is unusually long, with so many hot days in a row not having been observed since 2007.

The highest temperature recorded in Bulgaria this summer is 41C. In the last ten days, 40.5C were recorded in Ruse (on the Danube), but that is not unusual. In 2007, for example, the temperature reached 44C in Ruse and 44.6C in Sandanski (Southern Bulgaria), or by 3C to 4C higher than the current temperatures.

Bulgaria has experienced heatwaves before: in 1987 and 1988 the temperature exceeded 40C, and in 1916 it was 44C in Boychinovtsi (Northwestern Bulgaria). From a historical point of view, Bulgaria has had extremely high temperatures, but usually they lasted a day or two and were followed by colder weather. Now, there are several days of extremely high temperatures interrupted not by colder weather but by temperatures lower by only 2C to 3C. That is what makes this year’s heatwave different, the climatologist explains.

Another peak in temperatures is expected on July 25 and 26, when some parts of the country will experience 41C to 43C. Usually, such heatwaves are felt the most in Ruse, Pleven, and Svishtov up north as well as in Pazardzhik and Plovdiv down south. Afterwards, the temperatures will drop significantly. The last five days of the month will mostly have normal temperatures, the expert says.

There is a difference between the summer of 2022 and of 2023: last year, that season was the hottest in a large part of Central and Western Europe, Matev tells BTA. Hotter weather in Western Europe usually means not very warm weather in Bulgaria, and that was the case in 2022: this country had relatively lower temperatures compared to previous years and frequent rain showers. This summer began in a similar way: with heatwaves in Western Europe, where June was the hottest month ever recorded in the UK, Ireland, Belgium, and the Netherlands. In Bulgaria, June had normal temperatures but was not hot and was rainy, particularly in Western Bulgaria. However, July saw a change in this circulation, and in Western Europe the weather has been cold and rainy for two to three weeks now, while in the Balkans it is exactly the opposite.

Asked which is the highest temperature ever recorded in Bulgaria, Matev says that there are two opinions on the matter: 45.2C in Sadovo, Plovdiv Region, in 1916, or 45C in Plovdiv on July 5, 2000. In that year, a record was set in Sofia where 40.2C was recorded in the capital for the first time.

Dr Simeon Matev is chief assistant at the Climatology, Hydrology and Geomorphology Department of Sofia University’s Faculty of Geology and Geography.