Scorching Heat in Sicily May Be Highest Recorded Temperature in Europe’s History

Scorching Heat in Sicily May Be Highest Recorded Temperature in Europe’s History
A man refreshes himself in a fountain during a hot summer day in Messina, Italy, on August 11, 2021. (Photo: Giovanni ISOLINO / AFP, Getty Images)

An Italian weather station in Syracuse, Sicily recorded an air temperature of nearly 50 degrees Celsius on Wednesday. If certified by the World Meteorological Association, the temperature reading could be the highest in recorded European history.

The temperature — 48.8 degrees Celsius — was detected at just past 1:14 p.m. local time, according to a Facebook post by the Sicilian Agrometeorological Information Service, which manages the network of weather stations on the island of Italy’s southwest coast. A wave of heat concentrated in the Central Mediterranean is also affecting other parts of coastal European and North African countries. The temperature recorded in Sicily is the highest the network of weather stations has recorded since it was established in 2002.

It’s important to keep in mind that this was a recorded air temperature, not a ground temperature. Ground temperatures in Siberia reached 48 degrees Celsius in June, but the air temperature was only (I say, grimacing) 30 degrees Celsius. In Syracuse on Wednesday afternoon, it really felt that hot. Besides the damage sweltering heat can have on infrastructure, agriculture and wildlife, such extreme heat can cause heat stroke and other illnesses in humans.

It’s also worth noting that the temperature reading comes in the same week as the International Panel on Climate Change’s most recent report, which indicated that the next decade will be essential in defining the extent of climate change’s impact on the planet.

Meteorologist Scott Duncan said in an email to Gizmodo that while the World Meteorological Organisation has not yet made an official comment on the recorded temperature, “The data from the network is very detailed and the weather station appears to be well-placed and maintained well,” and added that the heat in the Mediterranean will continue to build throughout the week. “We could see Spain break its all-time heat record on Friday or Saturday. Extremely hot conditions widely expected across the Iberian Peninsula, North-west Africa and through Southern France and Northern Italy in the coming days,” Duncan said.

Time will tell if more heat records are broken this summer. If we don’t make the changes necessary to bend the curve outlined in the recent IPCC report, other unfortunate firsts are sure to come.