A heatwave has been testing the perseverance of many on mainland Europe this week, with Italy facing record-breaking temperatures as high as 50°C and land temperatures exceeding 60°C in Spain.
Greece has seen 52 forest fires in just 24 hours as they also battle the unbearable Cerberus heatwave and it’s bad news as a second, named Charon, is following on its tail, bringing yet more extreme conditions.
The European Space Agency warned: ‘Temperatures are expected to climb to 48°C on the islands of Sicily and Sardinia – potentially the hottest temperatures ever recorded in Europe.’
But what’s causing this extreme heat?
What is causing the Cerberus heatwave across Europe?
There are different factors at play, but the biggest, according to scientists, is a high pressure system known as an anticyclone.
This area of high pressure is trapped over the southern Mediterranean, in particularly over Spain.
This, combined with clouds of Saharan dust are making conditions worse.
Another contributing factor is unusually high sea surface temperatures, which mean that cooler air is not blowing inland off the Mediterranean.
Dr Melissa Lazenby, a lecturer in Climate Change at the University of Sussex, told the MailOnline that, though it ‘is not possible to determine all the drivers and their exact contributions to the current heatwave in Europe’ a full attribution study after will help pinpont the exact causes.
She did agree, though, that the heatwave is largely ‘being driven by stable atmospheric conditions from a stationary high pressures feature.’
Is the Europe heatwave a sign of climate change?
Experts also agree that climate change is undoubtedly a ‘critical driver’ behind this latest heatwave.
Dr Leslie Mabon, Lecturer in Environmental Systems at The Open University, said: ‘We can be in absolutely no doubt that a critical driver behind this warming trend is carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.’
‘Until we rapidly reduce emissions from fossil fuels, extremes like the heatwave we are seeing in Europe at the moment are going to become more and more likely.’
The record-breaking heatwave follows the hottest week on record globally – recorded at the start of July – and this followed the hottest ever June according to the World Meteorological Organisation.
Nicole Maxey from the Met Office told Sky News said there has not been an attribution study linking this latest spell of hot weather to climate change.
But she did add: ‘What we have is that the base level of heat is higher so we are seeing increased levels of heat due to climate change so when you get a heat wave the temperatures that the heat reaches (are higher).’
Why is the heatwave called Cerberus?
The European heatwave has been (unofficially) named Cerberus by Italian weather website iLMeteo.
Cerberus was the mythical three-headed dog monster who guarded the gates of Hell.
In Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, the famous work by the Italian poet about a journey through Hell, Cerberus is a three-headed dog who torments sinners in the third circle.
The, somewhat dramatic, name has actually been denounced by the Italian Meteorological Society.
‘The name is unofficial, and we absolutely don’t use it,’ says Luca Mercalli, the society’s president, to Wired, adding that he finds it somewhat sensationalistic.
Will the European heatwave impact the UK?
The UK will escape the dangerous temperatures, instead facing unsettled weather with cool wind and showers currently forecast.
According to the Met Office forecast, Saturday (July 15), rain will continue across parts of the west. Winds will ease slightly however still remaining rather breezy by morning. And the country will be ‘feeling cool in the wind.’
Tomorrow, July 16, will see ‘sunny spells and showers, with some eastern areas staying dry. Another breezy day, and feeling cool.’
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