Europe’s Sweltering Heat: Stay Indoors, Hydrate, Limit Exercise
ROME: Italian health officials are sounding the alarm as southern Europe braces itself for an intensely scorching week, with temperatures predicted to soar above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). The region is already sweltering under the blazing sun and grappling with an influx of tourists. In response, the health ministry has urged regions to bolster their house-call services, ensuring that elderly individuals can receive medical care without venturing outside. Furthermore, the ministry has recommended the establishment of dedicated heat stations at hospitals to address emergency cases.
To safeguard the vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, the sick, and pets, the ministry has issued ten guidelines to mitigate the heat’s impact. These include advising individuals to remain indoors during the hottest hours, consume a minimum of 1.5 liters (nearly half a gallon) of water daily, and avoid strenuous exercise during peak daylight times. In an effort to disseminate this crucial information, local celebrities took to state-run RAI television to read the recommendations aloud.
The scorching conditions are attributed to a high-pressure anticyclone aptly named Cerberus, after the mythical three-headed dog that guards the gates to the underworld in Greek folklore. This marks the third heatwave in a month, expected to affect a significant portion of the Mediterranean until Wednesday.
Hannah Cloke, a climate scientist and physical geographer at the University of Reading, likened the situation to Italy and its neighboring countries transforming into a colossal pizza oven. She explained that the hot air mass originating from Africa has settled over the region due to stable high-pressure conditions. Consequently, the heat continues to intensify, impacting the warm sea, land, and air.
By Monday afternoon, temperatures in Rome had soared to 39 degrees Celsius (102 degrees Fahrenheit). The capital city was poised to experience even hotter weather on Tuesday, surpassing 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). Other cities, particularly those in Sardinia and Sicily, were also bracing for scorching temperatures.
As people sought relief from the relentless heat by relying heavily on air conditioners, power outages plagued parts of Rome, putting a strain on the electric grids. In addition, the Italian farm lobby Coldiretti raised concerns about domestic and farm animals, reporting that cows were producing approximately 10% less milk due to the sweltering conditions.
In Spain, a wildfire that ignited on the Canary island of La Palma over the weekend continued to rage uncontrollably on Monday. However, authorities expressed cautious optimism, citing weaker winds and cooler temperatures in the area as aiding the firefighting efforts. The fire has ravaged approximately 4,600 hectares (11,300 acres) of predominantly wooded hilly terrain, including around 20 homes and structures.
The Spanish meteorological agency, Aemet, warned that this week’s heatwave “will affect a large part of the countries bordering the Mediterranean,” with temperatures in certain southern regions of Spain expected to exceed 42 degrees Celsius (107 degrees Fahrenheit). The agency projected a decline in temperatures by Wednesday.
Aemet spokesperson Ruben del Campo attributed the heatwave to an anticyclone propelling a mass of hot air from Africa towards Spain and other Mediterranean countries. The agency further warned that with the scorching heat and extremely dry air, the risk of wildfires would skyrocket.
While Greece briefly experienced relief from the heat on Monday, with the Acropolis and other historical sites returning to regular operating hours, two wildfires threatened residential areas outside Athens. Fueled by winds reaching up to 70 kilometers per hour (45 miles per hour), containing the flames posed a significant challenge.
The southern regions of Greece, including greater Athens, remained on high alert due to the elevated risk of fires, while even higher temperatures were anticipated starting Thursday.
The scorching conditions were not limited to the southern Mediterranean. Authorities in North Macedonia extended the heat alert for the next ten days, as temperatures were predicted to surpass 43 degrees Celsius (109 degrees Fahrenheit). Similarly, authorities in Kosovo issued heat warnings, with residents expressing astonishment at the unprecedented heat levels in Pristina.
In conclusion, the searing heatwave engulfing southern Europe has triggered health concerns, power outages, and wildfires, necessitating precautionary measures and emphasizing the importance of staying hydrated and avoiding excessive physical exertion during peak daylight hours.