Europe’s 48C (1977) or 48.5C (1999) records could be challenged this weekend but will it break?

Written by on August 3, 2018 in Rest of Europe with 0 Comments

The current heatwave blistering Iberia has been on the charts for at least a week and this one has grabbed global attention for the intensity.

This is just the latest wave of heat in what’s been an already record warm summer for Western Europe.


It’s just just Europe, local and national all-time heat records have melted in parts of Africa, Asia and North America in what’s turning out to be the summer of ‘big heat’ across a large swathe of the northern hemisphere.

The current ridge transporting African air north is expected to push Europe’s weather stations to the temperature limits but is this hype or reality? Is it physically possible for 50C to be reached on mainland Europe like some models say? Only the next couple of days will tell.

Currently, the ‘official’ European record for heat is 48.0C recorded in Athens, Greece back in 1977.

Why quite so hot?

Excerpt from

The expected pattern is so extreme that the surface-temperature predictions of forecast models have to be approached with a grain of salt. Such models often struggle when trying to get a handle on the most unusual situations, especially when surface temperatures have a chance of going “superadiabatic.” A superadiabatic lapse rate means that conditions are warming the surface air even more than one would expect simply from bringing air of a certain temperature down to the surface from aloft. By itself, that descent produces a warming of 10°C per kilometer, or about 5.4°F per 1000 feet.

With that caveat in mind, some of the model forecasts are jaw-dropping. Highs are projected in some model output to approach the neighborhood of 50°C (122°F) across parts of central Portugal northeast of Lisbon. For context, the hottest temperature ever reliably recorded in Portugal is 47.4°C (117.3°F), which was notched at Amareleja on August 1, 2003, near the peak of Europe’s infamous and deadly heat wave of that year. Spain’s all-time heat record of 47.3°C (117.1°F), set in Montoro on July 13, 2017, may also be in jeopardy.

Forecasts from the UK Met Office suggest that 48°C (118.4°F) is possible in Iberia. The Weather Company is predicting that temperatures could reach 47°C by Saturday in the Alentejo and Tejo regions of Portugal, with readings of 40°C (104°F) possible in southern France. The World Meteorological Organization has deemed the all-time high for continental Europe as 48.0°C, set in Athens, Greece, on July 10, 1977. However, a reading of 48.5°C was observed at Catenanuova, Italy, on August 10, 1999. According to weather records expert Maximiliano Herrera, the Catenanuova reading is more consistent with nearby observations than the Athens reading, and thus more likely to be the highest reliably measured temperature in European history.


Clear and boiling beneath the ridge Friday afternoon.

Thursday topped 45C and Friday 46.4C, Saturday?

Iberia’s highest for Thursday



Credit: MeteoGib

Both Spain and Portugal fall within 1C of the European record officially 48C at Athens according to WMO and so that’s essentially the figure we’ll be watching carefully.

Just last year, Spain recorded a new national record with 47.3C at Montoro while Portugal’s marginally higher 47.4C was reached during the big heat of 2003.

Models vary with exact numbers for Saturday but it’s clear the hot zone shall be in southwest Spain and south/central Portugal and with 45C reached Thursday, 46C Friday and morning’s starting off warmer than the last, it’s very plausible that today could tie or exceed national records on Iberia with a shot at the continental record.


For many days now, there’s been cross model agreement that the 48C continental record for Europe is in jeopardy with coolest models showing 45 to 47C and warmest 52C.


Saturday morning infrared.


According to MeteoGib, as of 7am it’s 30C in Plasencia and Castelo Branco but 33C at Portalegre, up from 29C at the same time yesterday.

Credit: Meteoceil

Saturday’s GFS charts on what could be an historic day.

Credit: Tropical Tidbits

Credit: Tropical Tidbits

Credit: Tropical Tidbits

Red warnings in place for the extreme heat.

Hottest day by country. Some figures including Spain need updated.


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