Warning Cerberus heatwave could break Europe temperature record

A record-breaking heatwave set to last weeks will blanket Europe - ITV News' John Ray reports

Temperatures in Southern Europe could break records this week as a heatwave sweeps across the Mediterranean.

An area of high-pressure originating from the Sahara has been named Cerberus by meteorologists.

It is expected to reach Italy on Wednesday with the islands of Sicily and Sardina expected to be the worst hit.

Temperatures above 40 degrees have been predicted across the country, with the islands forecast to see the mercury hit as high as 48C.

The highest temperature ever recorded in Europe was in Syracuse, Sicily in August 2021 at 48.8C.

President of the Italian Meteorological Society, Professor Luca Mercalli, said: "We know that there will be temperatures above 40C or 45C.

"We could get close to the record. Either way, the levels will be very high.”

Meteorologist Stefano Rossi told the La Stampa newspaper the name Cerberus was not a coincidence.

Why is Europe naming heatwaves?

Naming storms and hurricanes has been an adopted practice for decades now.

The main reason why meteorologists name these weather events is to raise awareness about the danger they present to the general public, and some in Europe are now applying the same logic to heatwaves due to the hazards they pose.

The Spanish city of Seville was the first city to adopt the practice, when it called a heatwave that hit last June 'Zoe'.

The idea has been promoted for years by meteorologists but it is only recently that local authorities have begun to adopt it.

Scientists also hope that naming heatwaves and providing each one with specific information about its expected outcomes can help policymakers prepare better for their impacts.

Promoting the idea in 2020, climate communicator Susan Joy Hassol told Science News: "Naming heat waves will make something invisible more visible.

"It also makes it more real and concrete, rather than abstract."

Why Cerberus?Cerberus is the name of the three-headed dog that guards the gates of the third circle of hell in Dante's Inferno."Metaphorically, the three heads indicate the three main climatic zones into which Italy will be divided," Mr Rossi said.Mr Rossi also warned humidity would be extremely high during the heatwave and nighttime temperatures would not dip below 22C.A heatwave is also sweeping across Greece, Spain, France, Germany and several other European countries.

Tourists in Italy taking shelter from the heat. Credit: AP

Spain is already experiencing its second heatwave of the summer, with temperatures around 45C predicted.

A study published on Monday linked last year's heatwaves in Europe to more than 61,000 deaths.

The Mediterranean region had the highest death rate, the study showed: Italy, Greece and Spain were hit the hardest.

There were 3,469 heat-related deaths in the UK, or 52 deaths per million people, last summer.

The authors calculated that there were over 25,000 more heat-related deaths last summer than the average from 2015 to 2021, which they suggested could be linked to climate change.

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