Europe records 'hottest ever temperature' as fires rage on

·News and Video Producer
·3-min read

Europe appears to have sweltered through its hottest day on record as extreme weather continues to bake large parts of the Northern Hemisphere.

The city of Syracuse, located on Sicily’s Ionian coast reportedly hit 48.8 degrees Celsius, as a high atmospheric pressure anticyclone, nicknamed Lucifer, traveled north from Africa.

Athens, Greece, has held the European record since 1977, and will continue to do so until Wednesday’s temperature is verified by the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization.

Left - a fireman carrying a hose with burn burning in the background. Right - a Greek statue with fire in the background
This summer, firemen have tackled blazes across Europe, including in Varympompi, north of Athens. Source: Reuters

Meteorologist Scott Duncan, who is based in London, warned more records were "inevitable".

"A dangerous heatwave spanning much of North Africa and into Southern Europe is unfolding right now. The focus of heat will shift west and north slightly in the coming days," he wrote on Twitter.

Extreme heat in Italy leads to wildfires

The extreme weather has caused parts of Sicily to be inundated with wildfires, which have threatened houses and farms in the town of Giarratana.

Local woman Giovanna Licitra told Reuters they are “living some really sad moments”.

“Our small town was really invaded by fire,” she said.

Giovanna Licitra in Sicily with fire in the background.
Giovanna Licitra has called the situation in Sicily a catastrophe. Source: Reuters

"It is a catastrophe, the entire Calaforno park and the surrounding area went up in flames."

In southern Italy, thousands of acres of land have been scorched and a man was killed in Calabria, with fire fighters reporting they have carried out over 3000 operations in 12 hours.

65 dead in Algeria as heat wave causes destruction across Mediterranean

Much of the Mediterranean is under severe heat pressure, with exhausted firefighters in Greece tackling blazes around the Peloponnese peninsula.

Across the Aegean Sea, Turkish authorities have battled unprecedented fires and remain on high alert.

In nearby North Africa, Algeria’s death toll from wildfires has climbed to 65 people, including 28 soldiers, and three days of national mourning has been declared.

The government has deployed the army to help fight the disaster, with the worst hit region reported to be Tizi Ouzou in the Kabylie region.

Satellite imagery shows a burn scar caused by wildfires in the Calabria Region of Italy. Source: European Union, Copernicus Sentinel-2 and Sentinel-3 imagery
Satellite imagery shows a burn scar caused by wildfires in the Calabria Region of Italy. Source: European Union, Copernicus Sentinel-2 and Sentinel-3 imagery

Over the border, Tunisia has also been grappling with intense heat, with temperatures in the capital Tunis reaching 49 degrees Celsius on Tuesday.

Reports suggest power outages occurred as residents tried to stay cool using air conditioners. 

New terms used to communicate more extreme weather

As weather becomes more extreme climate experts are slowing adopting new terms in order to communicate unprecedented conditions.

Sicilians tried to escape the heat yesterday, on the coast of Realmonte, near Porto Empedocle. Source: AP / AAP
Sicilians tried to escape the heat yesterday, on the coast of Realmonte, near Porto Empedocle. Source: AP / AAP

While mega-blaze and heat dome are now in common use, here are some other terms you may be hearing.

  • Tipping cascades are a series of tipping points which can impact each other like a row of dominoes.

  • Marine heatwaves mean excessive underwater heat, and these are affecting areas like the Great Barrier Reef.

  • Super typhoons are more intense and can cause heavy rain and flooding.

  • New normal describes weather trends observed by scientists after studying decades of weather data.

  • Urban heat islands occur in urban areas where there is less vegetation to send water back into the atmosphere, and large areas of concrete and steel which traps heat.

Intriguing satellite images give insight into world events:

with Reuters and agencies.

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