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Record-Breaking Heatwave Strikes Italy, Prompting Red Alert in 16 Cities

CRISIS - Biosystem Viability by Alice Kong Europe Jul 17th 20233 mins
Record-Breaking Heatwave Strikes Italy, Prompting Red Alert in 16 Cities

Dangerous heat levels are affecting Italy, with 16 cities currently on red heat alert. The Islands of Sicily and Sardinia could face maximum temperatures of 49C this week, breaking the country’s 2021 record. The heatwave in Italy and several other European countries is expected to continue this week.

Italy is in the midst of a record-breaking heatwave which is expected to bring temperatures over 40C in several parts of the country this week. 16 cities including Rome, Florence, and Bologna are currently on red heat alert.

According to the country’s Ministry of Health, exceptionally high temperatures are expected on Monday across central and southern Italy, including Messina in Sicily, Catania in Sardinia, as well as the capital Rome and other central cities such as Firenze, Pescara, and Perugia. 

Authorities prompted citizens – especially vulnerable groups including children and the elderly – and tourists to take extra precautions amid the exceptional heat, such as staying indoors and avoiding direct sunlight. 

Italy’s highest-ever temperature (48.8C) recorded in August 2021 in the town of Floridia, located in the Sicilian province of Syracuse, is expected to be surpassed as the heatwave intensifies this week, according to the European Space Agency (ESA).

Peter Dynes, Chief Strategic Officer at MEER, an international network of engineers, scientists, project managers and volunteers for climate change, explained that the upcoming record-breaking heatwave is a “precursor to long term trends”, pointing out that Spain, Italy and Greece face widespread desertification once the global temperatures exceed 2C. 

Scientists have already warned that the globe is on track to surpass 2C of global warming and this summer’s unprecedented heatwaves are quickly bringing us dangerously closer to that threshold, beyond which large and often irreversible changes in the climate system will happen.

Dynes blames this summer’s events on the imminent El Niño, a weather pattern associated with the unusual warming of surface waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean that impacts the speed and strength of ocean currents, affecting the health of coastal fishers and local weather. Earlier this month, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) declared the onset of El Niño conditions, which scientists believe will push global temperature “off the charts” later this year and in early 2024. The weather phenomenon is expected to continue into the winter, and, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), there is a 56% chance of it becoming a strong event at its peak.

According to experts, Italy’s deadly heatwave is the result of a combination of the anticyclone Cerberus, set to happen for two weeks across Southern Europe, and El Niño. Considering that Italy is surrounded by a large body of water that is experiencing immense El Niño effects, it comes as no surprise that the country has become one of the hottest in Europe this year. 

However, it is not the first time a deadly heatwave has hit Europe during the summer. According to a report published in Nature last week, last year’s summer heatwave led to 62,862 deaths in Europe, with more than 18,000 occurring in Italy. The report also found that the majority of casualties took place in areas near the Mediterranean Sea.

The heatwave comes amid record temperatures in other parts of the world, including the US, China, and Japan. Beijing and other Chinese cities are facing one of the hottest summers ever recorded, with temperatures surpassing 40C and the capital experiencing a record-high of 41.9C last month. In southwestern US, temperatures reached up to 130F last week.

You might also like: Italy Faces New Round of Severe Drought Conditions Amid Exceptionally Warm and Dry Winter

About the Author

Alice Kong

Alice Kong is currently a summer intern at Earth.Org after her first year of education at the University of Hong Kong pursuing a Bachelor of Journalism and Media Studies. She has an interest in the editorial industry and commentary on environmental and political issues as well as local news reporting in Hong Kong. Seeing her being in the journalism industry in the future, she hopes to communicate thought-provoking and underrepresented ideas throughout her news reporting and storytelling.

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