How long will Italy’s unusually warm autumn weather last?

Climate experts say the persistently warm weather this October could break heat records - and more extreme weather is likely to follow.

How long will Italy’s unusually warm autumn weather last?
People across Italy have been enjoying a prolonged spell of t-shirt weather, or even beach weather, in the middle of October. Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

There’s talk of ‘un caldo innaturale’ (an unnatural heat) across Italy this week, as the unseasonably warm weather continues – meaning residents can postpone switching the heating on for a little longer this year, but also bringing clouds of smog, hordes of mosquitoes, and heightened concerns about the climate.

Summery weather in October is far from unusual in Italy. In fact, the phenomenon has a specific name in Italian: ‘Ottobrata’. But as higher temperatures persist, newspapers say Italy is now experiencing an ‘Ottobrata-bis’, a second warm spell which is forecast to last all month.

The phenomenon is caused by a recurring patch of high pressure over the Atlantic, which creates hot, dry conditions in the central Mediterranean. That often means several weeks of clear skies in Italy at this time of year – but this time temperatures are also unusually high.

‘Temperatures this October are 4-6°C above average, depending on the region,” said Bernardo Gozzini, director of the LaMMA-Cnr scientific research centre, in an interview with Italy’s Corriere newspaper on Thursday.

For some parts of the country the entire month has been mild and relatively dry, with especially warm weather in the south prompting some people to return to the beaches.

Antonio Sanò, director of weather website Ilmeteo, said Italy’s major islands of Sicily and Sardinia could see temperatures of around 30 degrees Celsius this week.

“But the truly exceptional climate will certainly be spoken of also in the central-northern regions,” he added, predicting “peaks of 25-26 degrees in cities such as Bologna, Ferrara, Florence, and in [the southern cities of] Rome, Bari and Naples.”

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Ilmeteo forecast rain in the north of the country on Friday or Saturday before temperatures soar again, predicting a “truly extraordinary Sunday”.

“Temperatures will rise everywhere, reaching peaks from the height of summer, especially in the centre-south and in particular in the inland areas of Sardinia.”

Weather website Meteogiornale said the “crazy weather” won’t end anytime soon, and that there’s “ever chance” Italy could set a new heat record for October.

“Temperatures are set to remain above the average by several degrees until the end of the month,” read one forecast on Wednesday, predicting that “the hottest heat is yet to come”.

‘Temperatures this October are 4-6°C above average, depending on the region,” said Bernardo Gozzini, director of the LaMMA-Cnr scientific research centre, in an interview with Italy’s Corriere newspaper on Thursday.

Gozzini said this weather fits “the general warming trend: 2022 is the hottest year recorded in the country since 1800, the top twenty places in that ranking are all from 2000 onwards.”

He noted that heating wouldn’t need to be switched on this month even in places like Milan or Bologna, which would normally be getting cold by the end of October, “with consequent energy savings, which in times of crisis is welcome”.

But experts agree that the increasing frequency of such unseasonably warm weather is a cause for concern, with climate scientists warning that unstable weather now could precede disastrous flooding or other extreme weather events.

READ ALSO: Climate crisis: Italy records ‘five times’ more extreme weather events in ten years

“These anomalies occur with greater frequency and intensity and increase the meteorological variability,” physicist Paola Mercogliano of the Euro-Mediterranean Centre for Climate Change told Corriere.

“In addition to increased smog and stagnant pollution over the cities, this extreme heat increases evaporation and therefore the availability of water in the atmosphere. With the arrival of the first, normal, autumnal disturbance, new phenomena of extreme precipitation could occur,” she warned.

In Italy the number of extreme weather events including droughts, storms floods, hailstorms, strong winds and tornadoes has already been 42 percent higher in 2022 so far than last year.

Mercogliano said warm autumn weather won’t necessarily become the “new normal”.

“It is still possible to reverse the trend, but mitigation and adaptation policies are needed immediately to avoid further economic and health damage”.

Europe overall is likely to experience a warmer winter than average, the continent’s long-range weather forecaster said last week, though a “cold blast” is predicted to sweep the continent in December.

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‘Winter is starting’: Italy braces for snow and storms as cold snap arrives

Northern Italy woke to freezing temperatures on Friday while Vesuvius was dusted with snow as long-delayed winter weather arrived in Italy.

‘Winter is starting’: Italy braces for snow and storms as cold snap arrives

A cold front arriving from northern Europe brought temperatures as low as minus 18 degrees Celsius in the eastern Alps in the early hours of Friday, while minus 14 was recorded in Garfagnana, and minus 5 in Milan, Turin and inland Sicily.

Snow also fell at higher altitudes in the south overnight, with local residents capturing images of Vesuvius covered in a dusting of snow.

“Winter is starting,” Claudio Cassardo, climatologist at the University of Turin, told newspaper La Repubblica on Friday.

“We will return to normal seasonal temperatures. However, we’re no longer used to the cold and snow”.

While the north in particular shivers in freezing temperatures and snow was forecast for many areas, including at lower altitudes, central and southern regions were warned to expect heavy rain and stormy conditions from Friday and into the weekend.

Italy’s Department for Civil Protection issued a lower-level alert for storms on Friday in parts of five southern Italian regions, including Basilicata and Calabria, and a medium-level amber alert for Campania, where the agency warned of a risk of hailstones and flash floods.

Showers, strong winds and thunderstorms are expected to spread further across the centre-south and to the Adriatic coast by Saturday, when temperatures are again forecast to drop below zero in inland parts of the centre and north.

Weather website Meteo3B predicted temperatures would drop to 0-1 C across much of the north overnight and in the early morning on Saturday.

Forecasts showed the mildest temperatures in the coming days would be in the southeastern region of Puglia and along the southern coasts of Sicily and Calabria, where a steady 8-10 degrees Celsius is expected over the weekend.