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Southern Europe Sweats as Extreme Heatwave Sets New Temperature Records




Southern Europe is grappling with a second extreme heatwave, dubbed “Charon”, following last week’s “Cerberus” wave. The blisteringly high temperatures expected to prevail this week, have rung alarm bells concerning potential wildfires and significant health risks, according to Italian weather forecasters.

Scorching Temperatures across Europe

Areas in Italy, Spain, and Greece have already endured relentless heat for days. The European Space Agency has warned that the heatwave has only just begun, spurred by a high-pressure anticyclone rising from North Africa. These conditions could cause the continent’s temperature record of 48.8 degrees Celsius, set in 2021, to be surpassed.

The heatwave, which is predicted to peak between Monday and Wednesday, is likely to push temperatures beyond 45 degrees Celsius in certain regions of Italy. In response to the upcoming sweltering weather, city authorities in Rome, Florence, and other areas have declared an “extreme” health risk warning anticipating temperatures will spike over 40 degrees Celsius. To handle these harsh conditions, guidance from Italian authorities includes hydrating frequently, eating lighter meals, and steering clear of direct sunlight between the hours of 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Spain and Greece are not exempted from this severe heat as their thermometer levels also hit above a roasting 40 degrees Celsius in locations such as Seville, Cordoba, Granada, and Athens. The intense heat has even compelled local authorities to impose a temporary ban on visitors at Athens’ Acropolis during the past weekend.

Heatwave Fuels Wildfires

The escalating heat has led to ideal conditions for wildfires. On the Spanish Canary Island of La Palma, wildfires that started on Saturday have already ravaged 4,650 hectares (11,490 acres), leading to the evacuation of thousands and the destruction of 20 houses. Fires have also been reported in Tenerife, another Canary Island, forcing the evacuation of around 50 people.

In Greece, up to 150 firefighters, 40 fire engines, seven aircraft, and four helicopters have been deployed to control a fire in Kouvaras, approximately 27 km southeast of Athens. Additional wildfires are reported in the Peloponnese and central Greece.

In Italy, a fire prompted the temporary closure of the airport in the city of Catania on the Sicilian island. The fire has since been controlled, but it’s unclear if the region’s high temperatures played a role.

Global Warming Amplifies Heatwaves

The escalating climatic crisis implies a possibility of an increase in severe weather conditions, as projected by scientists. The evidence of fossil fuel combustion pushing global temperatures up by 1.2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial times is clear. Beyond Europe, this heat effect is ubiquitous, experienced from the Northwestern regions of China to the Death Valley in California, US.

Records show that last month was the hottest June globally yet witnessed, coinciding with unmatched high sea temperatures and record-breaking low levels of Antarctic ice as per reports from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service. The first week of July registered itself as the hottest week ever recorded. Christopher Hewitt, who heads climate services at the World Meteorological Organization cautioned that “we are navigating unexplored terrains and should brace for more broken records.

Unprecedented Heatwave’s Health Impact

Health warnings have been prevalent across the Northern Hemisphere due to rising temperatures. In Cyprus, a 90-year-old man reportedly died from heatstroke and three other seniors were hospitalized. Italy’s Health Ministry has sounded a red alert for 16 cities, including Rome, Bologna, and Florence.

In Spain, health risks are a growing concern, particularly in regions where temperatures may reach a staggering 113 degrees. While Greece experienced some respite on Monday, a new heatwave is expected on Thursday.

Visitors and locals alike are taking precautions. From consuming lots of water to wearing hats, they are adopting various measures to shield themselves from the intense heat. “You have to drink lots of water, obviously wear your hat and that’s about it,” advised Jacob Vreunissen, a civil engineer from Cape Town, South Africa.

The escalating temperatures and resulting wildfires serve as a stark reminder of the effects of global warming, causing an upheaval in the regular lives of people and affecting the environment significantly.

Adapting to a Hotter Future

Given the expected rise in both the frequency and severity of heat waves due to climate change, there’s an immediate necessity for societies to adjust. This encompasses mitigating the effects of global warming by cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions, as well as developing strategies to handle growing temperatures. Such methods may involve the creation of structures and cities meant to maintain cooler temperatures, strengthen infrastructure resilience, and modify agricultural practices in favor of those that can withstand higher temperatures.

However, as evidenced by the ongoing heatwave across Europe, we are a long way from being fully equipped for such extreme weather occurrences. Hence it is vital that all – governments, scientists, and ordinary people alike – acknowledge this threat and actively react to it ensuring not just human survival but also the preservation of numerous ecosystems that make Earth uniquely diverse.