Rome sets scorching new temperature record
By Anders Lorenzen
One degree might not seem like a lot to the average person. But when it comes to climate science, it is a huge margin and could represent the difference being living and dying.
On July 18th 2023, Rome, the capital of Italy, experienced a record-breaking heatwave with scorching temperatures, when the city beat its previous temperature record by a whopping one degree C.
Sweltering summers are not new to Rome, and throughout its illustrious history, the city has endured extreme temperatures. But, with the 18th of July record, a new chapter will be written into its history, albeit not a positive one.
The Italian capital witnessed unprecedented temperature records that left its residents and visitors reeling. As the sun climbed high in the sky on July 18th, Rome faced its hottest day in recorded history. The city’s thermometers reached jaw-dropping highs, with temperature records shattering previous marks. Rome’s temperature on that day soared to a record 41.8 degrees C, breaking the previous record set during the notorious 2003 European heatwave of 40.7 degrees by more than one degree.
Beyond the discomfort caused by the heatwave, there were severe implications for Rome’s most vulnerable populations. This includes the elderly and persons with pre-existing health problems. Increased risks of heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and dehydration were prominent concerns. Furthermore, these rising temperatures also affected agricultural practices, putting stress on crops and triggering water scarcity. These added to the struggles already faced by Italian farms, as drought conditions have persisted through all of 2023 in some regions of the country.
Part of a global trend
The scorching temperature records in Rome are not isolated incidents but part of a growing trend worldwide. In line with the prediction of climate models, heatwaves have become more frequent and intense. Rising greenhouse gas emissions and global temperature increases amplify the likelihood of extreme weather events such as extreme heat. The temperatures experienced on July 18th act as another warning to policymakers and governments, about the urgent need to address climate change and to invest in sustainable practices and solutions.
In response to such extreme weather events, there will be increased calls on governments and communities to take further measures to reduce the impacts of future heatwaves. Strategies such as implementing heatwave response plans, improving urban infrastructure to reduce heat island effects, promoting energy efficiency measures, and raising awareness about climate change and its implications. These are the key issues governments will be urged to prioritise.
The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, recently warned that climate impacts are a wake-up call for humanity, and events such as the 18th of July Rome temperature records could be the kind of events he referred to.
Rome and Italy are not the only places currently struggling with extreme heat. We recently wrote about Spain recording the highest land-surface temperature ever. In addition to this, much of southern Europe, as well as large parts of the US, Canada and China, are currently struggling with unprecedented extreme heat with the impacts of climate change laid bare. Policymakers and politicians are left pondering how best to mitigate the impacts of the climate crisis now and in the future.