With thunderstorms in mountainous areas of northern Italy on Thursday, there are hopes that we could soon see the end of the blistering heatwave that has brought temperatures up to the high 30s and low 40s this week.
But stormy conditions are not expected to cool things down, with forecasters at weather website IlMeteo.it warning that “maximum temperatures are seeing slight and temporary decreases, but the relative humidity, and therefore the heat, is increasing” in northern areas.
Meanwhile, the south and centre of the country continues to swelter in still, humid conditions, with temperatures in the high 30s expected throughout the weekend.
Weather forecasters warn that the heatwave is set to continue until the end of the month.
Temperatures of “up to 40°C in the shade” can be expected across much of Italy early next week, according to forecasts in newspaper La Repubblica on Thursday.
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The Italian health ministry has issued red alerts for extreme heat on Friday and Saturday in and around the cities of Bologna, Campobasso, Florence, and Pescara.
Lower-level amber or yellow heat alerts were issued for Friday and Saturday in almost every other part of the country, except Turin and Genoa.
While the most extreme temperatures are being seen in the southern and island regions of Italy – particularly in Sicily, Puglia, and Sardinia – the north of the country has suffered badly with drought and power outages due to the heatwave.
The Italian government is set to announce a state of emergency in the regions of Lombardy, Piedmont, Veneto and Emilia-Romagna, which are suffering the most severe drought seen in 70 years.
In Milan and Turin, a massive increase in electricity usage for cooling day and night has pushed the electricity grid beyond its limits over the past week, leading to blackouts.
Until a few years ago, the typical maximum temperatures in Italy at the end of June would be around 26°C in the north, 27 in the centre and 28 for the south, according to IlMeteo.it.
With many parts of Europe experiencing unusually high temperatures for this time of year, experts have repeatedly warned that the increase is caused by global heating.
“As a result of climate change, heatwaves are starting earlier,” said Clare Nullis, a spokeswoman for the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva.
“What we’re witnessing today is unfortunately a foretaste of the future” if concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continue to rise and push temperatures towards 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels, she added.