Heatwave: What temperatures can we expect in Italy in August?

Italy's health authorities are issuing new weather warnings for extreme heat - but will August bring record-breaking temperatures? Here's what's forecast for the coming weeks.

Heatwave: What temperatures can we expect in Italy in August?
People cool off at the seaside in Ostia on the outskirts of Rome. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

August is here and Italy is bracing for another heatwave after already enduring months of extreme weather.

While heat in August is not exactly unusual, temperatures across Italy are expected to be 10 or even 15 degrees higher than average for the month, meteorologists warn.

READ ALSO: The 7 signs that August has arrived in Italy

For the coming heatwave, “the peak of heat will reach our country between Thursday and Friday, especially in the northern and central regions and on the Tyrrhenian side, with 39-40°C in the shade likely,” according to weather website Il Meteo.

The most oppressive heat and humidity is then expected to be felt in the south of the country over the weekend, though areas on the Adriatic coast are forecast to be less affected.

Storms are also forecast in Alpine areas and over the central Apennine mountain range by the end of the week.

The Italian health ministry has maximum level ‘red alert’ heat warnings in place already on Wednesday and Thursday for the cities and provinces of Perugia and Palermo, with Rome added to the list on Friday.

‘Red’ heat warnings signify extreme conditions that can be harmful to the health of the general population.

Predictions of 40°C are no longer surprising to anyone, Il Meteo’s forecasters say, “however it is worth remembering that the average climatological values ​​at the beginning of August are much lower”.

READ ALSO: ‘Four to five light meals a day’: Italy’s official advice for surviving the heat

Records from the period between 1971-2000 show Italian cities usually reach maximum August temperatures far lower than those forecast this summer.

Turin and Genoa showed an average maximum temperature of 28°C; Milan 29°C; Bologna 31°C; Florence 33°C; Rome 32°C; 31°C in Naples and Bari; and in Cagliari 32°C.

The hottest local readings (34°C) came from the weather station at Catania Sigonella “in the hot inland areas of eastern Sicily in the province of Syracuse,” Il Meteo explains, “where a year ago, on August 11th, 48 degrees was recorded; 8°C above the previous European record.”

“In short, in practice we’re increasingly reaching temperatures 10°C warmer than the average, locally even 15°C,” Il Meteo writes.

Shut public fountain in Baveno, Milan

Many towns and cities in northern Italy, including Milan, have switched off their public fountains amid water shortages this summer. Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP

“These exaggerated values ​​are an example of an extreme weather event predicted by environmental researchers; they represent the prediction that numerous industrialised countries have denied for decades.”

Europe has already experienced a series of unusually intense and lengthy heatwaves in June and July, and those extreme temperatures are expected to continue across the continent in August.

“Probably this time Europe will break records for the month, and not the annual values, but the European warm-up will be very important and decisive,” writes Il Meteo meteorologist Lorenzo Tedici.

READ ALSO: How 2022 compares to Europe’s hottest summers

In Italy, the especially hot and dry conditions this year so far have already resulted in the worst drought in 70 years and a wildfire season three times worse than average.

The Italian government has released official advice on preparing for the hottest part of the year.

This includes avoiding going outdoors at all between 11am and 6pm; wearing a light-coloured hat, sunglasses and sunscreen when outdoors; taking periodic showers to reduce body temperature; and drinking at least two litres of water a day.

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‘Extreme’ climate blamed for world’s worst wine harvest in 62 years

World wine production dropped 10 percent last year, the biggest fall in more than six decades, because of "extreme" climate changes, the body that monitors the trade said on Thursday.

'Extreme' climate blamed for world's worst wine harvest in 62 years

“Extreme environmental conditions” including droughts, fires and other problems with climate were mostly to blame for the drastic fall, said the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) that covers nearly 50 wine producing countries.

Australia and Italy suffered the worst, with 26 and 23 percent drops. Spain lost more than a fifth of its production. Harvests in Chile and South Africa were down by more than 10 percent.

The OIV said the global grape harvest was the worst since 1961, and worse even than its early estimates in November.

In further bad news for winemakers, customers drank three per cent less wine in 2023, the French-based intergovernmental body said.

Director John Barker highlighted “drought, extreme heat and fires, as well as heavy rain causing flooding and fungal diseases across major northern and southern hemisphere wine producing regions.”

Although he said climate problems were not solely to blame for the drastic fall, “the most important challenge that the sector faces is climate change.

“We know that the grapevine, as a long-lived plant cultivated in often vulnerable areas, is strongly affected by climate change,” he added.

France bucked the falling harvest trend, with a four percent rise, making it by far the world’s biggest wine producer.

Wine consumption last year was however at its lowest level since 1996, confirming a fall-off over the last five years, according to the figures.

The trend is partly due to price rises caused by inflation and a sharp fall in wine drinking in China – down a quarter – due to its economic slowdown.

The Portuguese, French and Italians remain the world’s biggest wine drinkers per capita.

Barker said the underlying decrease in consumption is being “driven by demographic and lifestyle changes. But given the very complicated influences on global demand at the moment,” it is difficult to know whether the fall will continue.

“What is clear is that inflation is the dominant factor affecting demand in 2023,” he said.

Land given over to growing grapes to eat or for wine fell for the third consecutive year to 7.2 million hectares (17.7 million acres).

But India became one of the global top 10 grape producers for the first time with a three percent rise in the size of its vineyards.

France, however, has been pruning its vineyards back slightly, with its government paying winemakers to pull up vines or to distil their grapes.

The collapse of the Italian harvest to its lowest level since 1950 does not necessarily mean there will be a similar contraction there, said Barker.

Between floods and hailstones, and damp weather causing mildew in the centre and south of the country, the fall was “clearly linked to meteorological conditions”, he said.