Extreme heat continues to grip southern Europe, leading to the issuance of red alerts for 16 cities in Italy. These alerts, which signify risks even for healthy individuals, are in effect for popular tourist destinations such as Rome, Florence, and Bologna in the coming days. As another heatwave looms, more high temperatures are expected across Europe in the upcoming week. The European Space Agency (ESA) has identified Italy, Spain, France, Germany, and Poland as countries that may experience extreme weather conditions. With the monitoring of land and sea temperatures through satellite observations, the ESA aims to keep track of these heatwaves.
Heatwaves, while occurring naturally within weather patterns, have become more frequent, intense, and prolonged globally due to the effects of global warming. This raises concerns about the impact of heatwaves on the human body, the reasons behind the scorching temperatures this summer, and the role of climate change. In response to the red alerts, the Italian government has advised people in the affected areas to avoid direct sunlight between 11:00 and 18:00 and take extra care of the elderly and vulnerable population.
Greece, too, has been experiencing soaring temperatures, reaching 40°C (104°F) or higher in recent days. The Acropolis, Greece’s renowned tourist attraction, had to close during the hottest hours of Friday to ensure the safety of visitors. With strong winds exacerbating the situation, there are growing concerns about an increased risk of wildfires, recalling the devastating wildfires experienced in 2021 during another intense heatwave.
Heatwaves have also made their way to central Europe, impacting countries like Germany and Poland. The Czech Republic’s meteorological office has issued warnings of exceptionally high temperatures exceeding 38°C over the weekend. In contrast, the United Kingdom is expected to receive heavy showers and gusty winds in certain areas of England on Saturday. This weather phenomenon is attributed to the southern shift of the jet stream, which not only fuels the hot weather in Europe but also draws low-pressure systems into the UK, resulting in unsettled and cooler weather conditions.
The current heatwave in Europe has been named “Cerberus” by the Italian Meteorological Society, drawing inspiration from the three-headed monster in Dante’s Inferno. Weather forecasters in Italy are cautioning that the upcoming heatwave, dubbed “Charon” after the ferryman in Greek mythology who transported souls into the underworld, could push temperatures back above 40°C next week. Heatwaves are not limited to Europe alone, as countries like the United States, China, North Africa, and Japan are also experiencing extreme temperatures.
Taking precautions to mitigate the effects of the heatwave, Greece’s culture ministry announced the temporary closure of the Acropolis from 12:00 to 17:00, recognizing the lack of shade and the site’s tendency to have higher temperatures than the surrounding areas. The Greek Red Cross has been mobilized to distribute water bottles and assist those experiencing symptoms of heat-related discomfort such as nausea and dizziness. People are advised to consume a minimum of two liters of water per day and to avoid dehydrating beverages like coffee and alcohol.
In June, Europe experienced its hottest month on record, according to Copernicus, the EU’s climate monitoring service. The highest temperature ever recorded in Europe was 48.8°C in Sicily in August 2021. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) warns that extreme weather events resulting from climate change are unfortunately becoming the new normal.