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HEATWAVE

‘Unprecedented’ heatwave hits Europe sparking health warnings for the public

Fans flew off store shelves and public fountains offered relief from the heat as temperatures soared in Europe on Monday, with officials urging vigilance ahead of even hotter conditions forecast later in the week.

'Unprecedented' heatwave hits Europe sparking health warnings for the public
Photo: AFP

Meteorologists blamed a blast of torrid air from the Sahara for the unusually early summer heatwave, which could send thermometers up to 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) across large swathes of the continent.

As RTVE meteorologist Silvia Laplana labelled it in this heat map of Spain for the next week, “el inferno (hell) is coming”. 

Authorities have issued warnings against dehydration and heatstroke, in particular for children and the elderly, and hospitals have been placed on high alert.

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“I'm worried about people who are downplaying this, who are continuing to exercise as usual or stay out in the sun,” French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said.

“This affects all of us, nobody is a superman when it comes to dealing with the extreme heat we're going to see on Thursday and Friday,” she told a press conference.

“It's unprecedented because it's hitting so early in June, we haven't seen this since 1947,” said Emmanuel Demael, a forecaster at the Meteo-France weather agency.

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He expects records will be set for the month, “and in some places records for all months combined.

In Paris, officials pledged to open “cool rooms” inside public buildings, set up temporary water fountains, and leave the city's parks unlocked at night.

City workers also plan to distribute water to the homeless and install fans in schools and nurseries.

But fans were in short supply after weather reports prompted a rush on stores over the weekend, and France's electric grid operator RTE is expecting a surge in demand as air-conditioning is turned up to maximum.

French retailer Boulanger said sales of “air treatment” equipment had jumped 400 percent from normal levels in recent days.

Italy is set to swelter this week, with temperatures forecast to climb over 40 degrees Celsius in several parts of the country.
 
The next seven days will see “one of the most intense heatwaves of the past decade” in Europe, predicts the 3BMeteo weather service, whose forecasters believe that the second half of the week could set new records in several Italian cities for the highest temperatures ever recorded in June.

Records in view

Spain's AEMET weather agency warned of an “extreme risk” of forest fires in areas including Aragon, Navarre and Extremadura, with temperatures that could exceed 42 degrees in the Ebro valley in the northeast.

In Germany, forecasters said the June record of 38.2 degrees for Frankfurt in 1947 was likely to come under threat, with little prospect of storms to cool things down.

“It could get up to 39 degrees, some places could even crack the 40 degree mark,” said Sabine Krueger of the German weather service, with the southwest due to be the hottest.

Even Scandinavian countries aren't being spared, with parts of southern Denmark and Sweden likely to reach 30 degrees starting Tuesday.

The temperatures will be most intense from Thursday, forecasters say, and high humidity is likely to make conditions even more difficult, especially at night.

France's Labour Minister Muriel Penicaud urged businesses to “adapt their hours and equipment” to help employees cope.

Meteorologists have said such heatwaves are likely to be more frequent, even if countries succeed in their commitments to limit global temperature increases as part of the 2015 Paris climate accord. 

The deal aims to contain increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.6 Fahrenheit), committing nations to reduce emissions to this end.

The European Union pledged to cut carbon emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

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CLIMATE

Climate crisis: The Italian cities worst affected by flooding and heatwaves

The climate crisis is causing serious problems for Italy's biggest cities and extreme weather events are going to become more frequent, according to a new report.

Climate crisis: The Italian cities worst affected by flooding and heatwaves
A file photo from November 12th, 2019 shows flooding during an exceptionally high 'acqua alta' in Venice.Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

Anyone who was in Italy throughout this year’s long, hot summer may suspect that heatwaves are becoming a more frequent occurrence.

And residents of the lagoon city of Venice will no doubt be able to attest to the devastating impact of serious floods, as well as to the fact that such events appear to be becoming increasingly frequent.

In fact, a new study by the Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change (CMCC) has confirmed that the incidence rate of both heatwaves and floods in Italy has increased significantly – and is only expected to keep rising.

READ ALSO: From Venice to Mont Blanc, how is the climate crisis affecting Italy?

The report stated that average temperatures have risen overall in the last 30 years and continue to rise in all cities.

“Risks associated with climate change affect all Italian regions and their economic sectors,” the study’s authors stated. “Despite contrasts, with different areas being affected in different ways, there are no regions that can be considered immune from climate risks.”

The report found that the southern city of Naples had experienced the biggest increase in the frequency and severity of heatwaves.

Heatwaves fuelled the most destructive fire season to date in Italy this summer Photo: Nicolas TUCAT/AFP

The southern city has in recent years reported an average of 50 more intensely hot days per year than it did at the beginning of the century.

The same figure for Milan was +30 days, Turin +29 and Rome +28. 

Although extreme weather events have always existed and Italy is no stranger to intense heat, numerous studies have found that the climate crisis is making heatwaves more frequent and more dangerous.

Meanwhile, in Venice, over the last 150 years the relative water level of the city has risen by more than 30 centimeters, and the critical threshold has been exceeded 40 times in the last 10 years, the CMCC found..

The report also warned that the city of Bologna could expect to see an increase in the intensity and frequency of flooding in the future.

READ ALSO: Floods in Italy: What to do when there’s a weather warning

It added that “all scenarios” showed an increased risk of heatwaves and urban flooding in the coming years.

In 2019, Rome was found to be the city in Europe most at risk of flooding, according to water monitoring authorities.

“There are parts of Rome that can’t withstand a heavy downpour,” said the Central Apennines District Basin Authority.

Rome’s soft soil and famous hills make it naturally vulnerable to erosion and mudslides, while the authority said poorly maintained sewers, waste dumping and vegetation blocking the course of the Tiber and Aniene rivers were contributing to the flood risk.

Previous studies have also found that Rome suffered the highest number of extreme weather events overall in recent years.

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