HEATWAVE: Italy set to report new European record high temperature at 48.8C

Regional authorities in Sicily recorded a temperature reading of 48.8 degrees Celsius (119.8 Fahrenheit) on Wednesday, amid an extreme heatwave dubbed "Lucifer".

HEATWAVE: Italy set to report new European record high temperature at 48.8C

The blistering temperature was logged on Wednesday afternoon near Syracuse by the Sicily region’s Agrometeorological Information System (SIAS).

“At 13:14:15 local time, 48.8°C was reached at the SIAS station in Syracuse C. da Monasteri, the highest temperature recorded by the entire SIAS network since its installation in 2002,” SIAS stated in a Facebook post on Wednesday afternoon.

READ ALSO: ‘Lucifer’ heatwave fuels Italy’s wildfires with temperatures up to 47C

This appears to be a new record high for Europe, as well as for Sicily and Italy.

A spokesman for the national meteorological service told AFP on Wednesday afternoon that the reading still had to be validated before it could be confirmed as a new European record.

There is some dispute about the hottest-ever temperature previously recorded in Europe, with Sicily previously setting an “unofficial” record high of 48.5 degrees in 1999.

The World Meterological Organisation gives the official record as 48.0 degrees (118.4°F) in Athens in 1977.

However, 48.8 degrees would break both of these previous temperature records, if confirmed by the national weather service.

“If the data is validated after the appropriate analysis, it could become the highest value recorded on the European continent, beating the previous record of 48°C measured in Athens on July 10th 1977, even surpassing the record of 48.5°C set by an unofficial station in Catenanuova in August 1999,” meteorologist Manuel Mazzoleni from weather site told news agency Ansa on Wednesday afternoon.

Volunteers work to extinguish a wildfire near Nuoro, in the centre of Sardinia. Photo by MASSIMO LOCCI/AFP

The record high reading came amid a blistering heatwave sweeping Italy this week, worsening wildfires in the south of the country, notably Sicily and Calabria.

Sicily in particular, but also the whole of central and southern Italy and part of northern Italy, is affected by a current of hot air from the Sahara that has caused temperatures to soar to unprecedented levels.

The anticyclone was forecast to send the mercury rising to 39-42 degrees midweek elsewhere in southern Italy before sweeping northwards, with weekend temperatures of up to 40 degrees in the central regions of Tuscany and Lazio, which includes Rome.

READ ALSO: Six shocking statistics about the climate crisis in Italy

Italy’s Department for Civil Protection sounded the alarm over the heightened risk of serious fires due to the weather conditions this week.

The island of Sicily and the region of Calabria in particular have already been battling fires throughout the summer – most caused by arson and fuelled by heat.

Thousands of blazes have been recorded across the peninsula in recent weeks, with one in the west of the island of Sardinia ravaging almost 20,000 hectares during the worst fires seen in decades.

Although extreme weather events have always existed and Italy is no stranger to intense heat, experts say the climate crisis is making heatwaves more frequent and more dangerous.

This year’s fire season has been significantly more destructive than the previous average, EU data shows.

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Italy braces for first heatwave of the year with highs of over 30C

Temperatures are set to rise dramatically across Italy this weekend as the country prepares for its first real heatwave of the year, meteorologists said on Friday.

Italy braces for first heatwave of the year with highs of over 30C

People across Italy are preparing to head to the beach this weekend with unseasonably hot weather predicted to last for several days.

The heatwave is caused by an anticyclone named  ‘Hannibal’ sweeping in from Tunisia and Algeria, bringing hot air currents across the Mediterranean and as far north as Denmark and Poland, reports news agency Ansa.

Temperatures are forecast to rise above 32-33°C in parts of the Italian north including Veneto, Trentino Alto Adige, and Emilia Romagna, before the heatwave expands towards the centre and south of the country over the course of the weekend.

The weather is already 8°C above the seasonal average for this time of year, according to Antonio Sanò, founder of the Italian weather site, and temperatures could rise by as much as 10°C.

READ ALSO: From Venice to Mont Blanc, how is the climate crisis affecting Italy?

In a typical year these kinds of highs wouldn’t be seen until July, Sanò said.

The incoming heatwave will be particularly humid as the anticyclone is carrying moisture from the Mediterranean sea, according to IlMeteo.

However, the relative cool of the Mediterranean basin at this time of year will contain the heat and keep the temperatures from rising into the high 30s, as would happen if the same type of weather event occurred in August.

READ ALSO: Nine in 10 Italians ‘want more action on climate crisis’, new study finds

The heatwave will stretch over the weekend and continue into next week, peaking on Tuesday, according to weather reports.

Patchy thunderstorms typical of midsummer weather are anticipated in the Alps and the Po Valley, while the centre-south is set to experience hot and sunny conditions bar some isolated storms in the mountains of Abruzzo on Sunday.