Europe sizzles as unprecedented heatwave reigns supreme

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Europe is currently experiencing an intense and prolonged heatwave, with temperatures soaring to potentially record-breaking levels of up to 48°C (118.4°F). This heatwave follows previous global temperature records and coincides with the onset of El Niño. Last year’s heatwaves resulted in over 60,000 deaths in Europe, and the conditions this summer could be even more severe.

Countries including Italy, Spain, France, Germany, and Poland are all being affected by this major heatwave. Sicily and Sardinia are anticipated to reach scorching temperatures of up to 48°C (118.4°F), which could potentially set a new European record. A high-pressure system named “Cerberus” is pushing temperatures above 40°C (104°F) across a significant portion of Italy. This extreme heat follows a season of storms and floods during the spring and early summer.

The highest temperature ever recorded in Europe was 48.8°C (119.84°F) in Floridia, Sicily in August 2021. This record may be surpassed in the coming days. Satellite data from the Copernicus Sentinel-3 mission’s radiometer instrument shows land surface temperatures across Italy. Cities like Rome, Naples, Taranto, and Foggia have already exceeded 45°C (113°F), with temperatures above 50°C (122°F) recorded on the eastern slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily.

It is important to distinguish between air temperature and land-surface temperature. Air temperature reflects how hot the air is above the ground, while land-surface temperature measures the actual temperature of the land’s surface. The Copernicus Sentinel-3 satellite measures the energy radiating from the Earth, providing accurate land surface temperature data. These data are crucial for understanding and predicting weather and climate patterns, monitoring fires, optimizing crop irrigation, and implementing urban heat mitigation strategies.

Other European cities are also affected by this heatwave, with air temperatures projected to reach 44°C (111.2°F) in parts of Spain. Rome, Italy, and Madrid and Seville in Spain are experiencing land surface temperatures of 46°C (114.8°F) and 47°C (116.6°F) respectively.

The impact of climate warming, amplified by El Niño, is severely affecting food production, water availability, and public health. Timely and actionable information is crucial for adapting to these changes, and the Copernicus program, including the Sentinel-3 mission and the upcoming Copernicus Land Surface Temperature Monitoring mission, plays a vital role in providing this information.

The extreme temperatures in Europe are reflective of the record-breaking global temperatures reported by the World Meteorological Organization. June 2023 was the hottest June on record, marked by unprecedented sea surface temperatures and a record low in Antarctic sea ice extent. These developments underscore the urgency of addressing climate change and its impacts on the planet.

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