In a dazzling way high temperatures are expected to continue in parts of southern Europe this week as the continent braces for its second extreme heat wave, putting people’s health at risk and setting the stage for wildfires.
Last week’s “Cerberus” heatwave is giving way to another, which Italian meteorologists have dubbed “Charon” – the ferryman from Greek mythology who carries souls to the underworld.
Italy, Spain and Greece have already faced unrelenting heat for several days, but the European Space Agency has warned that the heatwave just getting started. In Italy, which has been particularly affected, temperatures in many cities are expected to exceed 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).
Hannah Cloke, a climatologist and professor at the University of Reading, compared the effect to that of a giant oven over the Mediterranean.
“The hot air bubble that swelled over southern Europe has turned Italy and neighboring countries into a giant pizza oven,” she said in a statement on Monday.
“Warm air from Africa now remains in place, with stable high pressure conditions, which means that heat in the warm sea, land and air continues to build up,” Cloke explained.
A street vendor walks with hats in front of the Colosseum in Rome, Monday, July 17, 2023.
Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images
A boy cools off at the fountain in Piazza del Popolo in Rome on July 17, 2023.
Extreme heat is being felt around the world, with the head of the World Health Organization on Monday urging world leaders to “act now” on the climate crisis.
“In many parts of the world, today is predicted to be the hottest day on record,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a tweet on Monday. “The #ClimateCrisis is not a warning. It happens. I urge world leaders to ACT now,” he also said.
High temperatures reached 52.2 degrees Celsius (126 Fahrenheit) on Sunday in northwest China. In the United States, Death Valley in California reached nearly 52 degrees Celsius (125.6) on Sunday.
As the man-made climate crisis gathers pace, scientists are clear that extreme weather events such as heat waves will only become more frequent and intense.
Global temperatures have already risen 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels due to humans burning planet-warming fossil fuels.
03:28 – Source: CNN
The graph shows all global temperature changes since 1850
“This is just the beginning,” said Simon Lewis, chair of global change science at University College London.
“Current policies globally have us aiming for 2.7 degrees (Celsius) of warming by 2100. This is truly terrifying,” Lewis said in a statement.
“As scientists agreed last year: there is a rapidly shrinking window of opportunity to ensure a livable and sustainable future for all. Deep, rapid and sustained reductions in carbon emissions to net zero emissions can halt warming, but humanity will have to adapt to even more severe heat waves in the future. he said.
Last month was the the hottest June on record on the planet by a substantial margin, according to the European Union’s Copernicus climate change service, accompanied by record ocean temperatures and record Antarctic ice levels.
This unprecedented heat continued this month. The first week of July was the hottest week on recordaccording to preliminary data from the World Meteorological Organization, placing the planet in what Christopher Hewitt, WMO’s director of climate services, described as “uncharted territory”.
Extreme heat is among the deadliest weather phenomena.
03:24 – Source: CNN
Here’s what happens to your body when temperatures soar
Chris Hilson, director of the Center for Climate and Justice at the University of Reading, noted that “reports from tourist locations such as the Acropolis and Rome tend to paint this extreme weather event as a mere inconvenience. during the summer holidays “.
However, he says, the reality is that “these heat waves often lead to many premature deaths, especially among the elderly.”
“It’s a matter of climate justice or fairness, because climate damage like extreme heat is felt unequally,” Hilson said, and “we need to ensure we continue to reduce polluting carbon dioxide emissions to avoid that these events do not become even more frequent”. ; but the authorities must also put in place adaptation measures taking into account these unequally felt prejudices.
These measures include “cool areas or visitor centers with transport to get there, more trees in the residential areas concerned and appropriate air conditioning (and preferably powered by renewable energy) in retirement homes” , Hilson added.
As a high-pressure anticyclone rises from North Africa, temperatures in Europe are expected to approach or even exceed the continent’s record high of 48.8 degrees Celsius (118.4 degrees Fahrenheit) set in 2021, according to the ESA.
The peak heat in Italy will be between Monday and Wednesday, according to the Italian weather service Meteo.it, with temperatures expected to climb. above 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) in some parts of the country. Temperatures will remain high overnight, meaning there will be little respite from the heat.
Italian authorities have advised people to drink plenty of water, eat lighter meals and avoid direct sunlight between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.
In Greece, where temperatures topped 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), authorities were forced to close the Acropolis in Athens from noon to 5 p.m. local time on Friday and then again over the weekend. end.
In Spain, temperatures in the cities of Seville, Cordoba and Granada have reaches 40 degrees Celsius. Even the normally cooler Navarre region in the north of the country experiences temperatures of up to 40 degrees Celsius.
The heat also helped prepare the land for the fires.
Wildfires on the island of La Palma in Spain’s Canary Islands, which started on Saturday morning, have burned 4,650 hectares (11,490 acres), destroying 20 homes and forcing the emergency evacuation of thousands of people , according to Reuters. report.
Andrés Gutierrez/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
A forest fire in La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain, July 16, 2023.
Smoke billows from the mountain of a raging forest fire in Tijarafe, on the Canary island of La Palma, Spain, July 16, 2023.
Fires also broke out on Tenerife, another Canary island, forcing around 50 people to evacuate and burning around 60 hectares (123 acres).
In Greece, more than 500 firefighters are trying to bring the four wildfires under control.
In the region of Loutraki – a popular seaside town in the Peloponnese, southwest of Athens – 1,200 children have been evacuated from a summer camp amid a forest fire, local mayor Giorgos Gkionis said. to the Greek media. A nursing home was also evacuated.
Meanwhile, two large forest fires are raging southeast and northwest of Athens. The larger of the two started after noon local time in the Kouvaras region – southeast of Athens – and stretched for 7 miles in the first two hours. Residents of Kouvaras as well as nearby resorts of Saronida, Anavyssos and Lagonisi have been ordered to evacuate as a precaution.
A fire also closed the airport in the city of Catania on the Italian island of Sicily on Monday, with flights suspended until 2 p.m. local time on Wednesday, according to a report. Posting on Twitter airport authorities.
Firefighters brought the blaze under control and it is not yet known if the high temperatures in the area played a role. Catania was one of several cities under a red alert for hot weather on Sunday, according to Reuters. report.