The Italian island of Sicily has recorded Europe’s highest temperature ever as a heatwave sweeps the country and devastating wildfires sweep across the Mediterranean region.
At 1.14PM on Wednesday, a weather station in the city of Syracuse on the south east coast of the island recorded a temperature 48.8 degrees Celsius. The figure was recorded by the Sicilian agro-meteorological information service, Sias.
If the recording is accepted by the World Meteorological Organisation it will break the previous record of 48 degrees Celsius record in Athens in 1977. In 1999 an unofficial weather station in the Sicilian province of Enna recorded a temperature of 48.5 degrees.
For some days now, Italy has been suffering from a particularly severe heat wave. Firefighters have been battling 300 different wildfires across southern regions of the country, including in Sicily. Meanwhile wildfires have swept through parts of Turkey, Greece and Algeria.
The record-breaking temperature is just the latest sign of extreme weather events across the world this summer, which has seen infrastructure melted in the Pacific north-west of America, record heat waves in Siberia, and widespread flooding in China and Germany.
While it is difficult to link individual weather patterns to the climate crisis, scientists say that events such as wildfires and extreme heat waves will increase in frequency and intensity due to global warming.
Climate physicist Antonello Pasini told Italian news agency AGI that the extreme events taking place in the Mediterranean basin and Italy are "largely due to anthropogenic global warming," which "has produced important changes in our latitudes, especially in air circulation."
Just a few days ago, the IPCC – the UN's intergovernmental group on climate change – published its sixth report, in which it issued an unequivocal warning: the consequences of the climate crisis, caused precisely by human activities, are now "inevitable" and "irreversible."
UN Secretary-General António Guterres said the new IPCC report is a "red alert for humanity."
According to the document, global temperatures have risen by 1.1 degrees since the beginning of the 20th century – very close to the 1.5 degree threshold set in 2015 by the Paris Agreement. For the scientific community, it is imperative to stay within that limit, because a 2-degree increase could trigger so-called "tipping points," thresholds where "a tiny change can push a given system into a completely different state."