Millions across Southern Europe have baked under intense heat in recent days, leading to many instances of heat-related illnesses and at least one fatality. AccuWeather forecasters say that residents in portions of the continent will need to prepare for worsening conditions next week as another bout of extreme heat builds.
“Temperatures have been rising since early July as the heat has steadily intensified across portions of Europe including Italy, Greece, Spain, France, Poland, and Germany,” said AccuWeather. Temperatures each afternoon this week soared well above historical average levels in places like Madrid, Milan, Rome, and Athens.
The heat turned deadly on Tuesday when a road worker collapsed while working during the hottest part of the afternoon near Milan, The Associated Press reported. The 44-year-old man later died at an area hospital. Temperatures in the city on Tuesday topped out at 97 degrees Fahrenheit (36.1 C).
In Spain, zookeepers at Madrid’s zoo, the Zoo Aquarium de Madrid, came up with creative ways to keep animals cool amid excessive heat this week. Pandas and bears were fed watermelon popsicles, seals enjoyed frozen sardines and lions devoured frozen buckets of meat, according to the AP.
In Greece, officials announced on Friday that one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions, the Acropolis of Athens, would be closed during the hottest hours of the afternoon, according to the BBC. The Acropolis is located in the country’s capital city where temperatures have soared above 100 F (37.8 C) each day since Wednesday.
A British tourist collapsed this week outside the Colosseum in Rome as portions of Italy roasted, the BBC reported.
“The extreme heat is attributed to a phenomenon known as a heat dome,” said AccuWeather forecasters.
“A heat dome occurs when strong high pressure develops at the surface, allowing for plenty of sunshine and little to no precipitation,” said AccuWeather Meteorologist Alyssa Glenny. “This abundance of sunshine and dry weather creates a feedback loop where the affected area just gets hotter and hotter.”
The Italian Meteorological Service has dubbed the current heat wave Cerberus, named after the monster who guards the gates of the underworld in Greek mythology.
AccuWeather forecasters say a storm that will roll across parts of northern and north-central Europe over the weekend could bring some relief as well as drenching downpours. While heat is set to ease in parts of northern France, Germany and Poland, and other portions of interior Europe this weekend, scorching conditions will remain in place for the Mediterranean region.
“The dome of high pressure will shift eastward across southeastern Europe through the end of the weekend, and temperatures are expected to remain elevated across places such as Italy, Greece, the Balkans, and Romania,” said Glenny.
Red warnings for heat were in effect for portions of southern Italy, including the islands of Sicily and Sardinia, from Friday through the weekend.
Warnings of this level haven’t been in place for these areas since the summer of 2022, noted Glenny.
The Italian Meteorological Service has already announced that the next heat wave will be named Charon, named after the ferryman who delivers souls to the underworld in Greek mythology.
“The risk of dehydration and heatstroke will be quite serious through next week, especially for vulnerable populations like children and the elderly or any outdoor workers,” said Glenny while issuing a caution.
Temperatures in cities like Athens will continue to range between 98 F and 103 F (36.7 C and 39.4 C) through a large portion of the upcoming week and into the latter portion of July.
According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the current highest temperature ever recorded in continental Europe stands at 118.4F (48C) set in Athens on July 10, 1977. While temperatures are not expected to come close to that record during the upcoming heat wave, it does illustrate just how hot parts of the region can become.
The process of naming heat waves is a very recent development. The first ever named heat wave occurred in Seville, Spain, in July 2022, according to Smithsonian Magazine. The heat wave, dubbed Zoe, was responsible for an estimated 510 deaths across Spain.
Heat waves are one of the deadliest weather threats worldwide. Earlier this month, a study published in the journal Nature Medicine found that more than 61,000 people across Europe died as a result of heat-related illnesses between May 30 and Sept. 4 of 2022.
Produced in association with AccuWeather
Edited by Judy J. Rotich and Newsdesk Manager
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