Cerberus heatwave: Europe braces for temperatures of up to 49C

Red alerts for extreme heat have been issued in 16 Italian cities, while wildfires are spreading through Spain and Croatia

Nick Ferris
Sunday 16 July 2023 00:54 BST
<p>A man cools off in a fountain in Turin, Italy, during the Cerberus heatwave on Saturday </p>

A man cools off in a fountain in Turin, Italy, during the Cerberus heatwave on Saturday

Forecasters say that Sicily and Sardinia could see the mercury hit 49C next week, as southern Europe continues to be gripped by a deadly heatwave.

An area of high pressure is making its way across the region. Italy has been hit particularly badly, with red alerts for extreme heat issued in 16 cities, including the popular tourist destinations of Rome, Florence and Bologna.

Temperatures in Italian regions including Puglia, Sicily, and Sardinia were expected to peak at 41C on Saturday.

The second “even stronger” part of the Cerberus heatwave, which has ravaged parts of Europe this week, is set to strike Italy in a few days time. It is then that temperatures of up to 49C could hit Sicily and Sardinia.

Meanwhile, wildfires have been tearing through Croatia, causing tourists and locals to flee the area of Grebastica, near Sibenik on the Dalmatian Coast. Propelled by strong winds, the forest fire caused towns and homes to be evacuated as the blaze spread.

In Spain, homes have been destroyed and hundreds of people evacuated after a forest fire ripped through the island of La Palma, in the Canary Islands.

Visitors walk in front of the Acropolis, in Athens, as the Cerberus heatwave hit Greece on Saturday

The regional president of the Canary Islands, Fernando Clavijo, said on Saturday that, in addition to forcing the removal of the residents, the blaze had destroyed at least 11 homes within the relatively small burned zone of 140 hectares (345 acres).

He warned that the number of evacuees could easily increase. “With the resources that we are deploying, we hope we can control the fire today, but the winds are shifting,” Mr Clavijo said. “More gusting winds are expected and, combined with the dryness of the terrain and the lack of rain, this situation is complicated.”

Spain’s army has deployed 150 of its firefighters to help local crews battle the blaze. More local firefighters are arriving on boats from the neighboring island of Tenerife, according to Clavijo.

In Greece, meanwhile, disgruntled tourists bemoaned the temporary closing of the Acropolis in Athens on Friday as Greek authorities proactively shut the world monument’s gates between midday and early evening.

Red Cross staff handed out bottled water to tourists wilting in long lines hoping to beat the closure and scale the steps up to the gleaming Parthenon temple as temperatures were expected to peak above 40C in the Greek capital.

It is expected that the current heatwave will claim a signficant number of lives. As The Independent reported this week, 61,000 Europeans are believed to have died as a result of the extreme heat last summer.

A 44-year-old worker already reportedly died this week in Italy, after he collapsed when painting a zebra crossing in 40C heat in the town of Lodi outside Milan, at midday on Tuesday.

While it is difficult to attribute a particular weather event to climate change, scientists say that such events will become increasingly frequent as the Earth warms. Average European temperature data, as the below chart illustrates, are also clearly trending upwards as each month passes.

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It is not just southern Europe experiencing particularly high temperatures. Poland has also been hit by the heatwave and is in midst of a drought with temperatures in Warsaw 13C higher than average.

The Polish capital is currently recording temperatures north of 30C, which is far in excess of the 19C the city usually feels in July.

Polish water levels are unusually low, and crop yields are also expected to be on the wane.

The UK, however, has escaped the current heatwave. The Met Office said it is unlikely that a heatwave will come to Britain this summer, unlike in 2022.

Spokesperson Rachel Ayers said temperatures will be up in August but there is a “below average” chance of super warmth.

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