European 'record' 48.8C reported in Sicily amid Italian wildfires

ITV News Reporter Martha Fairlie reports on the rising temperatures across Europe and the impact of climate change

Italy may have recorded the highest temperature ever reached in Europe on Wednesday, with the mercury reportedly rising to 48.8 Celsius in Sicily.

The reading, recorded by authorities in Italy, remains provisional until the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) verifies the temperature.

If the initial assessments are correct, it would overtake the current record of 48 degrees in Athens, made in 1977.

Sicily’s agriculture-meteorological information service, SIAS, reported the temperature at the island’s Syracuse station.

The agency said on its Facebook page it is the highest temperature registered in the entire network since its installation in 2002.

Italy’s air force meteorological service, however, said it had not recorded temperatures approaching that high on Wednesday but that its stations are in other locations so variations are to be expected.

The WMO said it would examine the reading but Randy Cerveny, the agency’s rapporteur for weather records, called it “suspicious” and said “we’re not going to make any immediate determination.”

“It doesn’t sound terribly plausible,” he added. “But we’re not going to dismiss it.”

A volunteer helps controlling fire in Fuscaldo, near Calabria. Credit: AP

WMO spokeswoman Sylvie Castonguay said: “Extreme weather and climate events are often sensationalised and mischaracterised as ‘records’ before they have been thoroughly investigated and properly validated.”

Wednesday’s soaring temperatures come amid a severe heatwave – and an anticyclone dubbed Lucifer by Italian press – affecting much of the Mediterranean and parts of North Africa.

Wildfires have spread in Algeria and continue to rage in Greece – with Italy now battling its own blazes in recent weeks in Sardinia, Sicily and Calabria for weeks.

Three have died in the fires.