Sizzling 115F Heat Is Killing Phones in Italy’s Sardinia Island

Temperatures in Italian islands of Sicily and Sardinia are creeping toward the European record of 48.8C as unprecedented heat from Tokyo to Phoenix US cooks the planet

(Bloomberg) — Mobile phones that die while shooting a video. Cars that roast on the inside. A thermometer needle that literally goes off the chart as temperatures exceed the maximum it was designed to record. Empty streets in what’s usually a bustling tourist center.

Those are some of the scenes that greet you in Cagliari, the capital of the Italian island of Sardinia where temperatures touched 45.9C(115F) on Wednesday, closing in on Europe’s record of 48.8C. Local records were smashed in Rome and Spain’s Catalonia the day before after the latest blast of Saharan heat. An 84-year-old man died in his car after pulling over in Sardinia on Tuesday, days after another man half his age collapsed while painting street markings for a pedestrian crossing in Milan.“I landed in Alghero and the heat was killing me,” said Silvia, 37, who declined to give her last name. She came to Sardinia to meet her family but will now be spending most of her days in the hotel. A frequent traveler to the Italian island known for its stunning beaches, she says has never seen such baking heat. 

An unprecedented heat wave — named Cerberus after the multi-headed hound from Dante’s Inferno — continues to roast the continent, threatening lives, livelihoods and critical infrastructure. Global warming is stoking scorching temperatures from Tokyo to Phoenix in the US, weeks after triggering flash floods in New York and wildfires in Canada. The planet-warming impact of greenhouse gas pollution is being revved up by the arrival last month of the first El Niño weather pattern in nearly four years.Read More:  The World Is Exploding Extreme Heat Records: Evening BriefingThe average worldwide temperature climbed above 17C for the first time ever on July 3, according to data from US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The planet has seen its hottest 16 days ever recorded just in this month.”We’re on track to get a three-week record for the global average temperature and possibly the entire month being record breaking,” Carlo Buontempo, director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service, said in an interview Wednesday. “So what is happening in Europe is part of a larger pattern.”

The pain unfolding in the streets of a developed economy like Italy signals it can get much worse in developing countries which are resource-crunched and where basic infrastructure, including health care and utilities, is already under strain.The damage from this year is not known yet but a recent study found that more than 60,000 people died as a result of searing temperatures in Europe last summer. Other research warned that European countries are among the least prepared for more hot days in a 2C warmer world.

Read More:   In Pictures: Europe’s Extreme Drought Is Wreaking Havoc in Spain“The second the breeze died, it was unbearable,” said Justin Valentine, who had traveled to Sardinia from the US to bike. “I don’t think I ever drank more bottles of water in a short amount of time,” said Valentine, who participates in triathlons.

Blistering temperatures can lead to dehydration, increase the risk of heart attack, stroke and respiratory problems. Exposure to heat is also known to worsen headaches, migraines and disrupt sleep patterns, especially as night-time temperatures also stay high, giving the body very little time to recover from daytime heat.Italy’s ministry of health has warned of emergency conditions in 23 major cities, including Rome, Venice and Palermo. Cagliari has the highest level of heat warning from the ministry — a red-dot alert — through Friday. The local authorities have also advised people to not expose themselves to sunlight between 11 am and 6 pm, avoid strenuous physical activities, stay hydrated and wear lighter colored clothing.Read More:   German Workers Should Take Spanish-Style Siestas to Escape Heat

The extreme heat is due to the anticyclone that arrives from Africa every year, according to Carlo Spanu, colonel lieutenant in Italy’s Air Force.“But this year is different,” he said. “The wind usually lasts a few days. It arrived 10 days ago, and has  not faded. We are nearing record highs for the temperatures ever recorded on our island.”The heat is also shooing away many tourists in a country where tourism is a $23 billion sector. Read More:  Climate Change Will Keep Messing Up Your Holidays: Lara Williams

While tourism is slow in Italy, arguably the hardest hit industry now will be agriculture.

The very high temperatures are “feeding into a re-think of the harvests and what we produce and sell in Sardinia,” said Valeria Satta, regional government official in charge of agriculture. Warming trends over the past five years have led to a seasonal invasion of grasshoppers.“Seasons have changed, completely,” Satta said. “We should brace for a very long summer.”

–With assistance from Jack Wittels, Lars Mucklejohn, Eamon Akil Farhat and Chiara Albanese.

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