As extreme weather sweeps the globe, a heatwave brings health warnings

As heatwaves and extreme weather gripped Europe, Asia, and the United States, Italy was anticipated to experience record-breaking temperatures on Tuesday, and the World Meteorological Organization issued a warning of an increased risk of deaths.

Advertisements

Temperatures could reach more than 47 degrees Celsius (116 degrees Fahrenheit) on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, according to forecasters, and 40 degrees in several Italian cities, including 42-43 degrees in the Lazio region that includes Rome.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) forecasted that the heatwave in the northern hemisphere would intensify over the next few days, posing a greater danger to human health as Europe endures sweltering temperatures during the height of the summer tourist season. In Europe alone, an estimated 61,000 individuals may have perished in heatwaves last year.

Temperatures reached 53 degrees in California’s Death Valley and over 52 degrees in China’s northwest this summer, coinciding with fatal wildfires from Greece to the Swiss Alps and catastrophic flooding in India and South Korea.

They have added new urgency to this week’s discussions between the United States and China, the world’s leading emitters of greenhouse gases.

John Kerry, the U.S. special envoy for climate change, met with Chinese officials in Beijing and expressed optimism that climate cooperation could help mend strained ties between the two countries.

President Xi Jinping of China emphasized that Beijing’s commitment to carbon neutrality and a carbon peak was unwavering and unaffected by external factors.

As the heatwave intensifies, temperatures in North America, Asia, North Africa, and the Mediterranean will remain above 40°C for several days this week, according to the WMO.

The WMO predicted that overnight minimum temperatures would also reach record highs, which would increase the risk of heart attacks and fatalities.

“While most attention is focused on maximum daytime temperatures, overnight temperatures pose the greatest health risks, especially for vulnerable populations,” the report stated.

Tourism organizations predicted that the heat in Europe could also result in a lasting shift in tourist preferences, with more people selecting cooler destinations or traveling in the spring or fall.

HOTTEST SUMMERS ON RECORD

Scientists have long warned that climate change, primarily caused by greenhouse gas emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels, will increase the frequency, severity, and lethality of heatwaves. They assert that governments must take severe measures to reduce emissions in order to avert a climate catastrophe.

According to the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, the summers of 2022 and 2021 were the warmest on record for the continent. Sicily recorded Europe’s greatest temperature of 48.8 degrees Celsius two years ago.

In Italy, visitors have attempted to stay cool by splashing themselves with water from Rome’s fountains and standing beneath enormous fans placed outside the Colosseum. Some were forced to wait more than an hour for taxis in the scorching heat outside Rome’s central train station due to the city’s endemic taxi shortage.

On Tuesday, the health ministry issued red weather alerts for 20 of the country’s 27 major cities, indicating a potential health risk for those exposed to the heat. On Wednesday, the number is anticipated to rise to 23.

Carlo Spanu, from the Italian air force’s weather service, stated, “It is not ruled out that we will exceed 47 degrees, and there could be some places in Sulcis and Campidano (areas in southern Sardinia) that could make us record an even higher value.”

“Our record temperature is 47.7 degrees. There is nothing preventing us from surpassing or matching it,” he said.

Some travelers, such as Anita Elshoy and her husband, left their favorite vacation destination of Vasanello, a village north of Rome, a week earlier than anticipated due to the excessive heat.

Elshoy described her heat-related symptoms as “a lot of head pain, swollen legs and fingers, and an increasing feeling of vertigo.” We were scheduled to stay there for two weeks, but the heat prevented us from doing so.

On Tuesday, the northeastern regions of Catalonia and Aragon, as well as the Mediterranean island of Mallorca, were warned to expect temperatures between 42C and 44C.

On Monday, the city of Andujar in the south reached 44.9 degrees Celsius, while the city of Toledo in the center eclipsed its maximum temperature record for the month of July with 42.9 degrees Celsius.

According to the national weather agency AEMET, temperatures did not dip below 25 degrees Celsius during the night in many parts of the Mediterranean coast and the interior of the Iberian peninsula.

In a significant portion of the territory, nighttime temperatures were among the five highest ever recorded for this time of year.

Residents near to a forest fire in Dervenochoria, Greece, north of Athens, have been warned by authorities to close their doors and windows as smoke from the flames approaches with gale-force winds.

As the first typhoon of the year made landfall in China on Tuesday, trees fell on vehicles, a whale washed ashore, and a freezer full of ice cream floated away in floodwaters as Typhoon Talim moved across southern provinces.