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Southern Europe swelters under Cerberus heat wave

July 13, 2023

Italy, Greece and Spain are grappling with scorching temperatures, with most of Italy under a "red" alert warning for heat that could break records once again.

A woman and man at a bus stop, where a board displaying the temperature shows 41 degrees Celsius
The UN said the world recorded its hottest week on record globally at the beginning of JulyImage: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images

Southern European countries were reeling under heat wave Cerberus on Thursday, with temperatures set to break records yet again.

The European Space Agency (ESA), whose satellites monitor land and sea temperatures, said Italy, Spain, France, Germany and Poland had all been affected by scorching temperatures. 

A woman wears her jacket over her head around the Colosseum in Rome
Rome was under a red warning alert due to extreme temperaturesImage: Guglielmo Mangiapne/REUTERS

The Italian Meteorological Society has named the heat wave Cerberus, after a three-headed dog that guards the underworld in Greek mythology.

Temperatures next week could break Europe's current record — 48.8 Celsius recorded in Sicily in August 2021.

Weather alerts in Spain, Italy, Greece

Weather alerts were in place in Spain's Canary Islands, Italy, Cyprus and Greece.

Greek authorities are expecting temperatures to surge to 43 degrees Celsius (109.4 Fahrenheit) or 44 degrees Celsius on Friday or Saturday.

In Italy, health authorities issued a red warning alert for at least 10 Italian cities, including Rome, Florence, Bologna and Perugia.

In Greece, the government ordered the suspension of work between 12 p.m. and 5 p.m. (between 0900 and 1400 GMT) in areas where blistering temperatures pose a threat to health.

Tourists drink water in the Greek capital of Athens
Visitors rested as temperatures soared at the Acropolis in AthensImage: Petros Giannakouris/AP/dpa/picture alliance

Ambulances were parked near major tourist attractions like the Acropolis in Athens.

The government has also requested that private companies allow employees with health conditions to work remotely.

In Sibenik, a town on the Croatian coast, firefighters worked to extinguish bushfires sparked by hot temperatures.

Heat waves occur when high pressure in the atmosphere moves in and pushes warm air toward the ground. 

A high-pressure system has drifted across the Mediterranean Sea from North Africa, with climate change making heat waves more frequent.

What role does climate change play in extreme weather?

Tens of thousands died during Europe's record heat waves last summer

European governments and employers are under pressure to do more to protect workers exposed to hot temperatures.

Italian media have attributed the death of a 44-year-old man in the northern town of Lodi to the scorching temperatures. The man reportedly died while painting road markings.

According to a study published earlier this week, more than 61,000 people died during Europe's summer heat waves last year.

rm/wd (Reuters, AP)