Roundup: Italy braces for major heatwave as agriculture struggles to cope with climate change

By UnreguserLi Jie
  • World
  • Saturday, 22 Aug 2020

by Alessandra Cardone

ROME, Aug. 21 (Xinhua) -- A major heatwave was expected to hit Italy over the weekend, which was forecast to be the hottest in the whole summer.

Temperatures were expected to exceed 40 degrees Celsius in some regions, and some local offices of the Civil Protection Department issued specific alerts.

In the southern Campania region, local authorities were warned of a "critical heatwave between noon on Friday until 10 a.m. on Sunday, with maximum temperatures possibly above seasonal average by 4 to 5 degrees," according to the regional Civil Protection.

In its bulletin, the local agency called for attention "to the most fragile sectors of society", namely elders and children.

Attention will be high on Italy's major islands, Sardinia and Sicily, where "temperatures could reach 38-40 degrees Celsius in the next 48 hours, and especially on the islands," Italy's Air Force meteorological service said on Friday.

Some areas in northern Italy also braced for record heat, with Bolzano, Bologna, Ferrara, and Turin among the cities more at risk, and central Florence, Perugia, and the capital Rome expecting temperatures to reach 34-38 degrees Celsius on average, according to the forecasts.

Meanwhile, the country's agriculture sector struggled to cope with the climate change registered so far in 2020, considering the alternation of hot spells, lack of rain, and local hailstorms, the national farmers' association Coldiretti recently warned.

"With a 30 percent drop in rain, there is a drought alert for the water levels of the Po river (Italy's watercourse crossing the northern regions) and of the great lakes, and for the high temperatures favoring the spread of wildfires," the group said on Thursday.

The warning was based on an analysis of data by the Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate of Italy's National Research Institute (CNR-ISAC) "in relation to the forthcoming heatwave that would push mercury above 40 degrees," according to Coldiretti.

In a report, the Civil Protection Department confirmed it received 450 emergency calls to assist with water-dropping planes local firefighters against wildfires across the country between June 15 and Aug. 18, and further 19 such requests arrived on Friday.

The high temperatures were impacting on a sector already stressed by the consequences of the coronavirus lockdown.

In the Emilia Romagna region earlier this week, local authorities appealed to the central government for help in the tomato harvest, since the alternation of hot spells in July and August, and the following rain made the crops ripen early and all at the same time.

In addition, there was a lack of workforce also due to the COVID-19 emergency measures, including the temporary border closure imposed on the seasonal agriculture workforce entering from some eastern European countries such as Romania and Bulgaria.

In a letter to Agriculture Minister Teresa Bellanova on Wednesday, the regional agriculture councilor asked for "state compensation measures for the crops (that are) not collected. Our processing factories are working at full speed, but this is not enough."

This emergency would concern over 37,000 hectares within the interregional tomato district in the northern Italy basin, some 66 percent of which are located in Emilia-Romagna, according to the regional government.

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