The city of Syracuse hit the scorching record Wednesday afternoon when an anticyclone – attributed to Italian media reports as “Lucifer” – swept in and moved further north through the country. An ongoing heat wave around the Mediterranean in Europe and North Africa has contributed to some of the worst fires in years.
The hottest temperature ever recorded in Europe was in 1977 in Athens, Greece, 48.0 ° C (118 ° F) according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
The record in Italy has been confirmed by the Sicilian authorities but has to be officially confirmed by the WMO.
“At the moment there are no reasons to invalidate it, but we will, if possible, make an ex-post assessment of the correctness of the measure,” said the Sicilian Agrometeorological Information Service, Sicily’s official weather station operator.
A high pressure area is a high pressure system in which the atmospheric pressure is relatively higher than the surrounding air.
In the northern hemisphere they rotate clockwise, while in the southern hemisphere they rotate in the other direction.
Some of the fires were started by arsonists, but scientists say it is the climate crisis that is making heat waves and fires more frequent and intense, and therefore more destructive.
An authoritative report by the United Nations’ International Panel on Climate Change released on Monday said that in southern Europe, 38 weather conditions conducive to forest fires have become more likely over the past century. Heat waves and droughts have also increased worldwide, making fires worse.
Temperatures around the Mediterranean were 5 to 10 degrees Celsius higher than average this week and dozens of people have died in forest fires in southern Europe and North Africa, most of them in Algeria, where 65 people were killed. Deaths have also been recorded in Turkey. Parts of Italy and Greece were also badly hit by fires, with some villages largely destroyed.
Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean and is sometimes referred to as the “toe” of Italy, a land shaped like a boot.