Europe’s Sizzling Summer: A Heatwave Like Never Before

Heatwave Across Europe July 2023

This image uses data from the Copernicus Sentinel-3 mission’s radiometer instrument and shows the land surface temperature across Europe and parts of northern Africa on the morning of July 10, 2023. Land surface temperatures hit 46°C in Rome, Italy, while Madrid and Seville reached 46 and 47°C, respectively. Credit: Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2023), processed by ESA

An intense, prolonged heatwave is sweeping across Europe, with potential record-breaking temperatures of up to 48°C (118.4°F). This follows global temperature records and coincides with the onset of El Niño. Last year’s heatwaves caused over 60,000 deaths in Europe, and this summer’s conditions could be even more severe.

Temperatures are soaring across Europe this week due to an intense, extended heatwave. Italy, Spain, France, Germany, and Poland are all experiencing this major heatwave, with temperatures anticipated to reach a scorching 48°C (118.4°F) on the islands of Sicily and Sardinia – potentially setting a new European record.

An anticyclone, a region of high atmospheric pressure, named “Cerberus” (named after the monster from Dante’s Inferno) coming from the south is expected to push temperatures over 40°C (104°F) across a significant portion of Italy. This high heat follows a spring and early summer rife with storms and floods.

The highest temperature ever recorded in Europe was 48.8°C (119.84°F), recorded on August 11, 2021, in Floridia, a town in Sicily’s Syracuse province. That record may be surpassed in the forthcoming days.

The below animation uses data from the Copernicus Sentinel-3 mission’s radiometer instrument and illustrates land surface temperatures across Italy between July 9 and 10. As the image clearly reveals, the land surface in cities like Rome, Naples, Taranto, and Foggia exceeded 45°C (113°F). On the eastern slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily, temperatures above 50°C (122°F) were recorded.

Italy Land-Surface Temperature July 2023

This animation was created using data from the Copernicus Sentinel-3 mission’s radiometer instrument and shows the land-surface temperature across Italy on 9-10 July 2023. On the slopes of Mount Etna, in Sicily, as well as in the region of Puglia, surface temperatures surpassed 47°C.
It is worth noting the difference between air temperature and land-surface temperature. Air temperature, given in our daily weather forecasts, is a measure of how hot the air is above the ground. Land-surface temperature instead is a measure of how hot the actual surface would feel to the touch.
Credit: Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2023), processed by ESA

Given that the Copernicus Sentinel-3 collected these data in the late morning (11:30 CEST), the temperature likely continued to rise throughout the afternoon.

This satellite instrument measures the actual energy radiating from Earth and reflects the temperature of the land surface, which is typically hotter than air temperatures. Hence, the map displays the true temperature of the land’s surface.

Scientists use land surface temperature data to better understand and forecast weather and climate patterns, monitor fires, optimize crop irrigation, and improve urban heat mitigation strategies.

This heatwave also affects other European cities, with air temperatures projected to hit 44°C (111.2°F) in parts of Spain later this week. Other areas hit hard include Rome, Italy, and Madrid and Seville in Spain, with land surface temperatures reaching 46°C (114.8°F) and 47°C (116.6°F) respectively.

“Climate warming amplified this year by El Niño severely affects food production, water availability as well as our health. To properly adapt to these changes we need timely information at actionable resolution which the Copernicus programme is providing with Sentinel-3 and soon with the Copernicus Land Surface Temperature Monitoring mission at 50 m resolution,” commented Benjamin Koetz, Mission Scientist of the Land Surface Temperature Monitoring mission.

These extreme temperatures in Europe mirror the record-breaking global temperatures reported earlier this week by the World Meteorological Organization. These came after the hottest June on record, marked by unprecedented sea surface temperatures and a record low in Antarctic sea ice extent. The Copernicus Climate Change Service reported that June 2023 was just over 0.5°C (0.9°F) above the 1991-2020 average.

The current heat aligns with the onset of El Niño, a natural phenomenon warming the Pacific Ocean. It’s expected that the global temperature will rise further and more weather records will be broken.

A study recently published in Nature Medicine disclosed that over 60,000 people perished due to last year’s summer heatwaves across Europe, with the highest mortality rates in Italy, Greece, Spain, and Portugal. This summer could potentially be worse. Consequently, the Red Cross has called on locals and tourists to exercise extreme caution and pay attention to those most vulnerable to the high temperatures.

14 Comments on "Europe’s Sizzling Summer: A Heatwave Like Never Before"

  1. Clyde Spencer | July 14, 2023 at 9:57 am | Reply

    “It is worth noting the difference between air temperature and land-surface temperature.”

    Unfortunately, they don’t make it clear in the article whether they are talking about air or ground temperatures. I suspect it is ground temperatures, which is disingenuous to not make it clear.

    I can remember walking barefoot on the beach at Waikiki (HI) in 1975. The sand was so hot that I had to jog to minimize the time in contact with the sand because it was painful. Had it been one of the black sand beaches, I might well have ended up with burns.

    If the situation with global warming is so dire, then it should be sufficient to just lay the facts out, rather than be vague or deceptive. Why should claims such as this be trusted when there clearly seems to be a lack of objectivity?

  2. Another climate denier spoke!
    Always justifying and making excuses and discrediting the data. You just have to live or visit in one of these places to feel how hot it is and remember how many people died in Canada and the US in the last 2 years because of unprecedented heat where folks weren’t used to having air conditioning. What is it going to take to wake people up?!

    And then the forest fires all over the US and the world because of droughts and heat that have destroyed the majority of beautiful land we had that our children will never get to enjoy.

    • Clyde Spencer | July 16, 2023 at 6:34 pm | Reply

      Questioning data and conclusions is how science advances. We don’t just sit back and say, “Thank you, problem solved.” We want to be sure that the experiment(s) was/were designed well and confounding variables were taken into account, no significant influences were overlooked, and the conclusions are logical and supported by the data. There is presently a crisis in science because so many studies cannot be replicated. Attacking me with a reprehensible allusion to Holocaust deniers, tells me that you don’t have a sufficient understanding of the principles of science to counter the points I raise.

      To obtain my undergraduate degree in geology, I was required to spend 8-weeks mapping the geology of a remote area without the conveniences of modern life — that is, no air conditioning, no TV, and traveling by walking. From the time the sun came up about 7AM in July from behind the White Mountains east of the Owens Valley in California [a little north of Death Valley], it was 100 degrees and climbing. I got dehydrated every day and had to re-hydrate in the evening while working on my map. It is unbelievable that you would make accusations about me without knowing anything about me or my background. I experienced and survived conditions far worse than you claim I need to visit.

      In the US, most wildfires are the result of arson. Natural fires are bad because instead of encouraging fires to thin out the underbrush, for decades we have suppressed fires. Indigenous people used to purposely start fires. Europeans prohibited them from continuing their cultural practices. We are now suffering the consequences of decades of poor forest management. Even so, evidence suggests that wild fires burned more acreage at the beginning of the 20th century than occur in recent years.

      Lastly, in countries like the US and Canada, that have cold Winters, more people die from the cold than from heat.

  3. Andrew Mitchell | July 15, 2023 at 3:48 am | Reply

    I entirely agree. It’s worth noting an made climate change deniers seem to have a lamentable lack of understanding of basic physics and science. There was never any debate as to whether trace gasses such as C02 are acted up by solar radiation and the subsequent infrared radiation building up due to atmospheric precipitation. The only valid question was would the tiny fraction that these gasses make up have as significant effect as was suggested in the 70’s by oil companies own research. The answer is Yes! I think we’ve given the new sayers more than enough time to prove they are clutching at straws searching for alternative explanations. Fifty years of largely ill informed contributions from climate change denial lobbyists has now put the entire life on Earth in jeopardy and certainly it’s going to a lot less pleasant living on the planet. In addition to stopping emissions we now have to hope that ways to remove significant quantities of C02 in particular will have to be scaled up sufficiently to try and ameliorate the situation.

    • Clyde Spencer | July 16, 2023 at 7:07 pm | Reply

      “… climate change deniers seem to have a lamentable lack of understanding of basic physics and science.”

      I don’t care who you are, I’ll put my credentials against yours any day. Besides having a BS and MS in geology, with an undergraduate emphasis in geophysics, I spent more than a decade teaching geology, geography, and chemistry at one of the more prestigious community colleges in California [There is an old saying that you never really know something until you have to teach it.] before changing my career and going into the field of remote sensing. I was issued a patent on classifying multispectral satellite imagery. [That’s just the icing on the cake!] It is arrogant of you to suggest that I’m unqualified to comment on physics and science without knowing anything about me.

      There is no question that CO2 can absorb IR wavelengths of EM radiation. However, the bigger picture requires understanding how all the factors of weather and climate interact with feedback loops. [I also taught a class on System Dynamics modeling in the Environmental Studies department at San Jose State University.]

      Your representation of what the oil companies supposedly knew in the 70s is inaccurate. I’ve looked over the claims. The very first model was so extreme as to be ludicrous. Subsequent models were not as extreme, but still only had in common that they showed increasing trends. Good science demands numbers that are useful for predictions, not just trends that have the sign (+/-) right, for which one has a 50% chance of being right. In 1988, James Hansen presented his model to Congress, which he thought was better than what was available to anyone in the 70s. I deconstructed his model and show that a simple linear extrapolation of historical data did a better job predicting temperatures, compared to his own data over the following 30-years:

      I see a lot of unsupported assertions in your comment, but little in the way of science. Neither you or Sophia address my basic initial criticism of the article being poorly written and containing exaggerations, which is common to your writing and Sophia’s.

  4. Zecas manecas | July 15, 2023 at 6:10 am | Reply

    Fakeology at its worst. Surface temperature is not a thing. Never was it used before sattelite IR imaging. So itsnonly natural all those records. Its just BS in a large scale.

  5. The farther away current and future generations of snowflakes are detatched from the Dust Bowl era in the 1930s the easier it is for them to, ostrich-like, bury their head in the sand and pretend that this is the first ever time, over the last two and a half million years of alternating glacial and interglacial periods,that it was not only ever this warm or hotter in the past. This eco extreme tripe is, by far, THE most perverse and extreme cult there has ever been since the printing press was invented.

  6. Thierry Verhaeghe | July 16, 2023 at 4:07 am | Reply

    CO2 is essential for the survival of plants which need minimum 150 parts per million. Today we have 400 parts per million. The planet has never been greener. Plants produce the oxygen we need. CO2 is not a poison it is an essential source of energy for plants and indirectly for animal life. There is no doubt about warming but making CO2 the sole cause of it is presumptuous in the extreme. It is another extraordinary popular delusion.

    • Amazing how one tries to use one set of facts that doesn’t pertain to the issue to try to obscure the issue by saying that the benefits of having more CO2 is a good thing for the plants so what’s the problem. Yes, it is true that plants need CO2…but having more at some point isn’t beneficial as there are other effects of CO2, which is the greenhouse effect which will kill off plant life and other life. All one has to do is look at the planet of Venus to see the effect of high concentrations of CO2.

      • Clyde Spencer | July 16, 2023 at 7:26 pm | Reply

        “Amazing how one tries to use one set of facts that doesn’t pertain to the issue to try to obscure the issue …’

        You make the same error as you accuse Thierry. Venus is not Earth and never was. It was always warmer, and as the sun warmed over time, it evaporated the water that makes Earth unique in our solar system.

        However, having said that, Earth has been much hotter and had much more CO2 in the past and it has not suffered the effects that you claim “will kill off plant life and other life.” There is no historical evidence from Earth that supports your claim. If Tipping Points were even possible for Earth, it would have already happened after 4.5 billion years, and we would be stuck in that state.

        I have demonstrated that during the COVID pandemic shutdowns, where anthropogenic emissions declined an average of 10% for the year, and more than 14% for April, the monthly Mauna Loa Observatory readings of CO2 showing the seasonal variation, are indistinguishable from 2019.

        Again, parroting claims made by alarmists, without supporting evidence, just like Sophia and Andrew.

  7. This is a lie.

  8. So 0 Celsius is 32 degrees Fahrenheit so how can 45 degrees C equal 112 Fahrenheit you add 45 C. and 32 degrees F you get 78 degrees F you people are idiots

  9. The formula to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit is: Fahrenheit = (Celsius * 1.8) + 32. Google is your friend.

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