September 20, 2023

Red alerts issued in 15 Italian cities

A woman uses a fan to shelter from the sun during a heat wave in Italy.  The Colosseum is visible in the background.

Some visitors to Rome’s Colosseum fainted earlier this week.

Red alerts have been issued for 15 cities across Italy as extreme heat continues to hit southern Europe.

The warnings, which point to risks even for healthy people, will apply to tourist hotspots such as Rome, Florence and Bologna in the coming days.

Potential record temperatures are expected in Europe next week as another heat wave approaches.

The European Space Agency (ESA) says Italy, Spain, France, Germany and Poland could experience extreme conditions.

The ESA monitors land and sea temperatures via its satellites.

The highest temperature ever recorded in Europe was 48.8°C in Sicily in August 2021, and forecasts suggest similar levels could be reached this week.

Periods of intense heat occur within natural weather patterns, but globally they are becoming more frequent, more intense and longer lasting due to global warming.

The Italian government has advised anyone in the areas covered by Saturday’s red alerts to avoid direct sunlight between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. and to pay particular attention to the elderly or the vulnerable.

Meanwhile, Greece has reached temperatures of 40C (104F) or more in recent days. The Acropolis – the country’s most popular tourist attraction – was closed during Friday’s hottest hours to protect visitors.

There are also fears in the country of a greater risk of wildfires, especially in areas with strong winds. It was hit by major wildfires in 2021 during another exceptional heat wave.

High temperatures have also reached central parts of Europe, with Germany and Poland affected.

The Czech Meteorological Office warned that temperatures could rise above 38 degrees over the weekend, which is exceptionally high for the country.

In the UK, however, heavy showers and gusty winds are expected in parts of England on Saturday.

Meteorologists said this was because the jet stream’s southerly shift, fueling Europe’s hot weather, also pulled low-pressure systems into the UK, bringing unsettled and cooler weather.

A volunteer gives water to a visitor near the Acropolis Hill, during a heat wave in Athens, Greece, July 14, 2023.

Volunteers from the Hellenic Red Cross hand out water bottles in Athens on Friday

Earlier this week, a man in his 40s died of heat after collapsing in northern Italy – while several visitors to the country have collapsed from heat stroke, including a British man outside Rome’s Colosseum.

The cause is the Cerberus heat wave – named by the Italian Meteorological Society after the three-headed monster featured in Dante’s Inferno.

Italian weather forecasters are warning that the next heat wave – named Charon after the ferryman who brought souls to the underworld in Greek mythology – will push temperatures back above 40C next week.

Heat waves can also be seen in parts of the US, China, North Africa and Japan.

Woman fanning herself in Rome - July 14

Italy is one of the countries with rising temperatures

The Greek Ministry of Culture announced the closure of the Acropolis on Friday from 12:00 to 17:00 (9:00-14:00 GMT), saying similar measures were likely to follow on Saturday.

The complex is located on a rocky hilltop with little shade and temperatures are usually hotter than in the surrounding areas.

Earlier on Friday, at least one tourist was carried out of the grounds after falling ill from the heat, local police said.

Several other tourist sites around the Sacred Rock where the Acropolis stands remained open all day.

In recent days, the Greek Red Cross has been deployed to provide water bottles and help people feeling nauseated and dizzy in the heat.

People have been advised to drink at least two liters of water a day and avoid coffee and alcohol, which are dehydrating.

Last month was the warmest June ever recorded, according to the EU climate monitoring service Copernicus.

Extreme weather due to global warming is “sadly becoming the new normal,” the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) warned.

Map of high temperatures in areas of southern Europe including Seville (37C), Sardinia (38C) and Larissa (39C).

Map of high temperatures in areas of southern Europe including Seville (37C), Sardinia (38C) and Larissa (39C).

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