Unverified temperatures of 48.8C reported in Sicily, possibly the highest ever recorded in Europe
Sicily, Greece, Turkey, and Algeria are all engulfed in flames.
The southwest Italian city of Syracuse saw enormously high temperatures on Wednesday (11 August), with the temperature reaching a reported 48.8C (119.8F) during the day.
If verified by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), it will set a new record for the highest temperature ever recorded in Europe. For context, the highest temperature ever recorded on the continent prior to now was 48C (118.4F) in Athens in 1977.
Flames stretched across the hills near Geraci Siculo in Sicily, as authorities continue to battles fires on the Italian island.
The wildfires have caused Sicily's government to declare a state of emergency. https://t.co/A8NYu6umTP pic.twitter.com/Pvh8yA4gJu
— ABC News (@ABC) August 11, 2021
The soaring temperatures in Sicily are part of a larger disturbing picture and a heat crisis sweeping much of Europe.
Wildfires in Greece, Algeria, and Turkey have meant countless people have been evacuated from their homes. Firefighters from the UK have been sent to Greece to help battle the blaze, Sky News reports.
But why is this happening?
Rising temperatures do point to one obvious subject, climate change. Only this week, a United Nations report warned that major climate change was "inevitable and irreversible", labelling the current situation as a "code red for humanity".
In the case of Sicily and southern Europe, however, it is believed that heatwaves driven by hot air from North Africa have spread across large parts of the Mediterranean in the last few days.
Ouch! Europe has just witnessed its highest temperature in recorded history.
+48.8°C at Siracusa, Sicily (IT) 🇮🇹 pic.twitter.com/seFHDMiM4f
— Scott Duncan (@ScottDuncanWX) August 11, 2021
WMO's Randy Cerveny said that the temperature claims from Sicily are "suspicious" and that the WMO are "not going to make any immediate determination".
"It doesn't sound terribly plausible," he added. "But we're not going to dismiss it."
More than 3,000 firefighting operations have been conducted across Sicily and Calabria in recent days, which includes seven planes flying overhead with to combat the flames from the sky.
— Federica Battiato (@fedbattiato) August 9, 2021
Syracuse's mayor, Francesco Italia, told Italian newspaper La Repubblica that the record temperature "worries us".
"We are devastated by the fires and our ecosystem - one of the richest and most precious in Europe - is at risk.
"We are in full emergency," he said.