Heatwave: Most Italian cities on red alert over scorching temperatures

The Italian health ministry was expected on Saturday to issue a red heat alert for 22 of the country’s 27 biggest cities.

Colosseum, Rome in the summer heat
Rome will be one of the 22 Italian cities set to be placed on red heat alert over the weekend. Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

Caronte (Charon), the subtropical anticyclone that has been pushing temperatures across Italy well above average for over a week now, showed no sign of easing off on Friday.

And, with temperatures up and down the stivale expected to further increase over the weekend, Italian health authorities were expected to issue a red alert for 22 of the country’s 27 major cities.

Red alerts are generally issued in response to critical weather conditions, including temperatures that are regarded as a serious threat to the health of the entire population and not merely of the most vulnerable (i.e. children, the elderly and people with pre-existing health conditions).

As this map from the health ministry shows below many Italian cities – 19 in total – were already on red alert on Friday for high temperatures.

The Italian cities expected to be placed on red alert over the coming weekend were: Ancona, Bari, Bologna, Bolzano, Brescia, Cagliari, Campobasso, Catania, Civitavecchia, Florence, Frosinone, Latina, Messina, Naples, Palermo, Perugia, Pescara, Reggio Calabria, Rieti, Rome, Trieste and Viterbo.

Only five of the country’s 27 biggest cities were set remain clear of the government’s red alert, though temperatures in such urban areas were still likely to be exceptionally high.

READ ALSO: Italian wildfires ‘three times worse’ than average as heatwave continues

Turin, Venice and Genoa were set to be placed on yellow alert (meaning no immediate health risk to the population), whereas Milan and Verona were likely to be issued an amber alert (the heat might pose a threat to the health of at-risk groups).

At any rate, regardless of the type of alert for each individual city, the first weekend of July was set to be a scorching one, with some areas of the country set to see the local thermometer reach 42C.

Once again, central and southern Italian regions were likely to be hit the hardest by the heatwave as experts warned that temperatures will be stably above 35C in Lazio, Campania, Calabria and Sicily. 

In the north, temperatures were forecast to swing between 30C and 35C depending on the area of interest.

So, how long will residents have to put up with the current heatwave? According to the latest forecasts, the anticyclone should begin retreating from the country from Wednesday, July 6th.

Temperatures in line with the seasonal average should return in the northern regions first and then in the rest of the peninsula over the following 48 hours.

READ ALSO: Drought hits Italy’s hydroelectric plants amid energy crisis

Alas, unprecedented heatwaves such as the one currently affecting the country will become more and more frequent in the future.

Notably, according to Antonello Pasini, a leading physicist at the CNR (National Research Council), the drastic climate change crisis means that most Italians will be forced to endure summers with “temperatures far above average” in the coming years.

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Will summer 2022 be Italy’s hottest ever?

As the country prepares for yet another heatwave, we look into whether summer 2022 might go down as the hottest summer in Italian history.

Will summer 2022 be Italy's hottest ever?

August is here and, alas, the heat is back on. 

After enduring months of exceptionally hot weather, Italy’s residents are bracing for yet another heatwave as meteorologists say temperatures this month might be 10 degrees higher than seasonal averages.

READ ALSO: Heatwave: What temperatures can we expect in Italy in August?

At this point many might be wondering whether the summer we’re living through (or surviving, you decide) might be one of, if not the hottest in Italian history. 

The short answer is: it might be but it’s far too soon to tell since, from a meteorological standpoint, summers consist of June, July and August and the latter month has only just started. 

But we can already start drawing a comparison between the current summer and the hottest summer in Italian history, the sweltering estate 2003.

For those who might not have been around then, summer 2003 brought four months of far-above-average temperatures without so much as a let-up to ‘break’ the heat. As a result, summer 2003 literally smashed each and every one of the previous records and earned the title of hottest Italian summer ever.

Tourists cooling off in Rome, Italy

Italy’s mean temperature in August is expected to sway between 2 and 3°C above season average. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

So far summer 2022 appears on track to give its infamous 2003 counterpart a run for its money.

Granted, in June 2022, the national mean temperature was 2.88​​°C above average, whereas the same value was 3.44°C above average in June 2003. 

But, while the country’s mean temperature was 1.59°C above average in July 2003, July 2022 registered an impressive +2.26°C in the same category.

So, all in all, it seems like the contest is bound to go right down to the wire, with temperatures in August set to determine whether summer 2022 will eventually be crowned as the hottest summer ever. 

Michele Brunetti, Chief Researcher at the Italian Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate (ISAC), tells The Local: “August 2003 registered a significant anomaly – the national mean temperature was 2.71°C above average. We’ll have to wait and see whether this month’s temperatures will exceed those recorded in August.

“It would surely be quite extraordinary [if they did].”

Difficult as it may be, forecasts project that the country’s mean temperature will sway between 2 and 3°C above average in the coming weeks, so there might be just enough margin for summer 2022 to become the hottest ever (not that we hope it does, obviously).

The dried-up banks of the Po river in Italy

Thus far, 2022 has been the driest year in Italian history. Above are the dried-up banks of Italy’s longest river, the Po. Photo by Andrea PATTARO / AFP

Meanwhile, 2022 may also be able to break another undesirable record and go down in history as the driest year ever – or, at least, since 1800, when records started.

READ ALSO: Italy’s Po Valley rations water amid worst drought in 70 years

So far this year, up until the end of July, rainfall across the country has been below average by as much as 46 percent (-52 percent in the north and -42 percent in the centre and south), making the first seven months of 2022 the driest in Italian history.

The amount of rainfall in the coming months will determine whether 2022 as a whole will beat out the current record holder, 2017 – something Brunetti says is likely to happen.

It would be no surprise given that the country is currently experiencing its worst drought in 70 years.