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Cerberus heatwave: Why is it so hot in Europe and how long will it last?

People cool off on a beach in Barcelona, Spain, 12 July 2023.

Southern and eastern Europe are bracing for record breaking temperatures as a searing heatwave sets in.

Parts of Italy could see highs of 48°C in the coming days stoking fears of an increase in heat-related deaths. On Tuesday (11 July), a road sign worker collapsed and died near Milan as temperatures hit 40°C.

Croatia, France, Greece, Spain and Turkey could also face temperatures of around 40°C. This is partly due to the Cerberus weather system, which is moving across the continent from the Sahara.

Why is it so hot in Europe?

Extreme temperatures have hit Europe this year as the world swelters through the El Niño weather pattern, and greenhouse gas emissions warm our climate.

But the latest highs have been made worse by an anticyclone dubbed ‘Cerberus’. This area of high pressure started in the Sahara before moving across northern Africa and into the Mediterranean.

The heatwave was named by the Italian Meteorological Society after the fiery-eyed, three-headed dog that guards the gates of the underworld in Greek mythology.

How hot will Europe get?

The Italian islands of Sardinia and Sicily could simmer in 48°C in the coming days. In August 2021, Sicily hit 48.8°C - the highest temperature ever recorded in Europe.

Rome, Bologna and Florence are among the 10 Italian cities currently under red alert for extreme heat.

Spain’s weather service said thermometers could potentially hit 45°C southeastern areas of the Iberian Peninsula, which are also under an alert for extreme heat. The temperature of the ground in parts of the country has hit more than 60°C.

In Greece, a heatwave is forecast to reach up to 44°C in some parts of the country in the coming days.

Authorities have banned access to nature reserves and forests to reduce the risk of wildfires, while municipalities have opened air-conditioned areas in public buildings for people to shelter from the heat.

Temperatures in Cyprus could also rise to 42°C, while Serbia and Romania could face 39°C on Monday. Parts of Croatia are expecting 38°C and France 37°C by end of the week.

Prague in Czechia could face highs of 36°C on Saturday, well above its 22°C average for this time of year.

A man jumps into the sea on a breakwater in Barcelona, Spain, 12 July 2023. AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti

How long will the Cerberus heatwave last?

The extreme heatwave driven by Cerberus is forecast to hit the Mediterranean for around two weeks.

But that won’t be the end of Europe’s weather woes.

The continent recorded its hottest week ever this month after experiencing the warmest June on record, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

The UN agency has warned that there is a 90 per cent probability of the El Niño continuing until the end of the year at moderate strength or higher.

The global weather phenomenon happens when waters in the Pacific Ocean become much warmer than usual. It could push the world past a new average temperature record, making heatwaves and storms stronger.

A recent report by Greenpeace on the impact of climate change on Spain’s weather highlighted the urgent need to cut planet-heating greenhouse gas emissions. Ramping up renewable energy sources and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels is vital to this goal.

How to stay safe during Europe’s heatwaves

Last summer’s heatwaves contributed to 61,000 deaths in Europe, according to a recent study.

Older people, women and those living in Mediterranean countries were worst affected.

As this summer begins to break heat records, people are being advised to stay hydrated and avoid caffeine and alcohol. Strenuous activity should also be avoided during the height of the day.

You should also watch out for signs of heatstroke. Symptoms include confusion due to lack of blood flow to the brain; reddened, dry skin; a lack of sweat; and, in the most extreme cases, organ failure, convulsions and seizures.

Check out our tips for how to stay cool during Europe’s heatwaves.

Posted on 13 Jul 2023 13:06 link