Europe has a new highest recorded temperature at nearly 120°F in Sicily

Europe officially has a new record temperature – 119.8°F – reached on Aug. 11, 2021. The extreme heat, recorded on the Italian island of Sicily, has been deemed the new record temperature for continental Europe by the World Meteorological Organization.

Previously, the record temperature for the continent was 118.4°F, recorded in Athens and Elefsina, Greece, on July 10, 1977.

But in 2021, an automated weather station in Syracuse, Sicily, reached nearly 120°F, prompting a panel of international atmospheric scientists to try and verify the temperature.

August is usually the hottest month for Syracuse but the average temp is 80.1°F, according to climate data. The coldest month is February, when temperatures drop to a mild 52.3°F, on average.

The 120°F day recorded in 2021 is the highest recorded for continental Europe, which includes parts of Asia like Turkey and Syria, according to WMO.

Professor Randall Cerveny, rapporteur of climate and weather extremes for WMO, said investigations like this are lengthy to ensure WMO is properly measuring global temperatures.

"Beyond that, this investigation demonstrates the alarming tendency for continuing high temperature records to be set in specific regions of the world," Cerveny said.

The previous high temperature recorded in Greece was based on official government sources, but has not been verified by WMO, the organization says.

Lots of bathers under umbrellas at the 'playa', the city's sandy beach, to find refreshment on a scorching hot Sunday with a maximum alert level for high temperatures  on July 16, 2023 in Catania, Italy. The record for the highest temperature in European history was broken in August 2021, when 48.8C was registered in Floridia, a town in Italy's Sicilian province of Syracuse. / Credit: Getty Images

"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," said Cerveny.

The findings were published in the International Journal of Climatology as well as WMO's Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes, naming Sicily as the location for the hottest temperature ever recorded in continental Europe.

In the region that includes other parts of Europe and the Middle East, Tirat Tsvi, Israel saw the hottest day on record – 129°F in 1942, the archive shows.

The highest temperature ever recorded was in 1913, when Furnace Creek, California – in Death Valley – reached 134°F. The lowest temperature ever recorded was -128.6°F in Vostok, Antarctica, in 1912.

The committee that determined the new high temperature is also looking at other weather phenomena, like whether or not Tropical Cyclone Freddy broke a record in 2023 for longest tropical cyclone.

The Earth saw its hottest year ever in 2023, with a global average temperature of 14.98°C, or 58.96°F, according to Copernicus, the European Union's climate agency. That is  0.17 degrees Celsius higher than 2016, which previously broke the record of highest global average temperature.

U.S. troops killed in drone strike identified

SpaceX launches cargo ship to International Space Station

Higher rates of psychosis and other disorders linked to marijuana use, study finds