WMO confirms verification of new continental European temperature record


The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has officially confirmed a new record temperature for continental Europe of 48.8°C (119.8°F) in Italy on 11 August 2021. The findings were published in the International Journal of Climatology.

An international panel of atmospheric scientists verified the temperature recorded by an automated weather station in Syracuse on the Italian island of Sicilia (Sicily). Because WMO Region VI (Europe) contains parts of Asia (e.g. Israel, Türkiye and Syria) and Greenland, the WMO extremes are categorized with records for both the region as a whole and for ‘continental’ Europe.

The previous record for continental Europe of 48.0 °C (10 July 1977) was held by the Greek cities of Athens and Elefsina, Greece. This was based on official government sources and included in the WMO Archive of Global Weather and Climate Extremes at the time of its formation in 2007. However, there was no independent WMO verification – unlike with the recent Italian temperature.

“The extremes presented before the WMO for adjudication are ‘snapshots’ of our current climate. It is possible, indeed likely, that greater extremes will occur across Europe in the future.  When such observations are made, new WMO evaluation committees will be formed to adjudicate such observations as extremes,” says Prof. Randall Cerveny, Rapporteur of Climate and Weather Extremes for WMO.

“Most investigations – like this one – are lengthy procedures because of the meticulous care that the WMO undertakes in certifying weather observations. Such painstaking evaluation provides the critical confidence that our global records of temperatures are properly being measured.  Beyond that, this investigation demonstrates the alarming tendency for continuing high temperature records to be set in specific regions of the world,” said Prof. Cerveny.

Many WMO evaluations are published in peer-reviewed journals. They are the included in the official website for the Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes, which includes records on the world’s highest and lowest temperatures, rainfall, heaviest hailstone, longest dry period, maximum gust of wind, longest lightning flash and weather-related mortalities.

The WMO committee of experts is currently conducting a number of other investigations, including whether Tropical Cyclone Freddy broke the record last year as the longest-lasting tropical cyclone.

New adjudicated records provide an authoritative benchmark for comparing record extremes for the annual WMO State of the Climate reports at global and regional scales.