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A priest wipes sweat from his face in Italy amid a red-alert heatwave warning Amer Ghazzal/Alamy Live News
Cerberus heatwave

Heatwave named after mythological monster brings scorching temperatures to southern Europe

Globally, the beginning of July was already the hottest week of modern records.

SOUTHERN EUROPE IS bracing for a heatwave bringing temperatures of more than 40 degrees Celsius in the coming days.

The Cerberus heatwave, named after a three-headed, monstrous dog in Greek mythology, is bringing blistering temperatures to countries including Italy, Spain, France and Greece.

The heatwave follows a record hot start to July as the World Meteorological Organisation confirmed that the beginning of the month was the hottest week globally of modern records.

Temperatures broke records on both land and at sea with “potentially devastating impacts on ecosystems and the environment”, the WMO said, calling it “worrying news for the planet”.

Extreme weather events such as heatwaves are made more likely and more intense by climate change, which is destabilising Earth’s climate systems as global average temperatures push upwards.

Scientists expect climate change to cause an increase in heat-related human deaths, as well as food-borne, water-borne and vector-borne diseases and mental health challenges.

Without sufficient action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the predicted impacts, losses and damages from climate change are expected to “escalate” with every increment of global warming and interact to create “compound and cascading” risks that are more complex and difficult to manage, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 

In Spain, multiple weather stations in the southeast yesterday recorded temperatures of 43 and 44 degrees Celsius in the afternoon and early evening.

The country already experienced its first heatwave of the summer two weeks ago, with temperatures of 44 degrees recorded on 26 June and several deaths confirmed due to the intense heat. 

The maiden flight of a rocket developed by a Spanish company, the Miura 1 rocket, has been delayed until September amid concerns that its launch could trigger a wildfire.

Greece’s national weather service EMY said on Monday that a six-day heatwave would roll in from Wednesday, with temperatures hitting highs of 43 degrees Celsius from the end of this week. 

The culture ministry is trying to assist tourists by providing shade and handing out free water at the Acropolis, the country’s most-visited site, and closing some outdoor archaeological sites during the warmest hours depending on local conditions.

In Italy, where some regions are expecting scorching temperatures in the 40s into next week, a 44-year-old man died in hospital on Tuesday after collapsing in the heat, according to a politician.

It issued a red alert heatwave warning this week for the cities of Bolzano, Florence, Frosinone, Latina, Perugia, Turin, Rieti and Rome.

Further north, Germany issued a health warning due to the heat at the weekend for older people, parents with young children, and anyone with health conditions or who is pregnant in anticipation of temperatures reaching 35 to 37 degrees Celsius, while neighbouring Austria braced for temperatures up to 35 degrees Celsius, well above its usual July average.

The UK’s Health Security Agency and Met Office also issued a heat-related health alert last week for six regions in England, including London, ahead of temperatures reaching up to 30 degrees.

Met Éireann’s forecast for Ireland over the next week indicates warm, but not record-breaking, temperatures reaching highs of between 16 and 19 degrees Celsius.

A study published this week by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health and France’s health research institute confirmed found that more than 61,000 people died due to heat during Europe’s scorching summer in 2022.

The researchers studied data on temperature and mortality from 2015 to 2022 for 823 regions across 35 European countries, accounting for 543 million people, and used models to understand the number of deaths due to high temperatures.

The study linked 61,672 deaths to the heat between 30 May and 4 September last year, with a 11,600 attributed to the week of 18 to 24 July alone.

Additional reporting by AFP and Press Association

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