Globally, 2023 was the hottest year on record since the pre-industrial era (1850-1900), with an average anomaly of almost +1.5°C, and two days in November that exceeded 2°C for the first time. In 2023, Europe experienced unusually high temperatures, with 11 out of 12 months recording temperatures above the historical average. Focusing on Italy, the past year ranked as the second hottest since 1800. Specifically, the average temperature was +1.12°C higher than the average for the period 1991-2020, nearing the record set in 2022, when the temperature anomaly reached a peak of +1.16°C, according to data from ISAC-CNR. Around 10% of the national territory of the countries of western Mediterranean Europe is still affected by the severe-extreme drought that has accumulated over the past 24 months, and even higher values are recorded in Greece and the eastern countries.
- The large lakes, as of 2nd January 2024, all show levels above the average filling values compared to the maximum available reservoir volume (volume is between the minimum and maximum limits of water regulation activity).
- The Po River, at the Pontelagoscuro measuring station, shows the peak related to the early December rainfall and ends the month with about 40cm more than at the end of 2022.
- The situation in Sardinia and Sicily: at the end of the month, the levels of the Sardinian reservoirs were below those of 2022 and, overall, were about 50% full (Sardinia Basin Authority); as a consequence, in the second week of January, the Central Sardinia Reclamation Consortium prohibited the use of water for irrigation. In Sicily, the drought and high temperatures forced several municipalities to ration water.
- As for the groundwater, at the end of December in Piedmont, the storage levels were below the average monthly values, with a tendency to be stationary or decreasing (ARPA Piedmont). In Veneto, the levels are falling, although they are within the average almost everywhere; values below the average persist in the upper Veronese plain (ARPA Veneto).
- In the last week of 2023, the hydroelectric power production values in the northern regions of the peninsula were the highest since 2016.
Forecasts for the coming months
Regarding air temperatures for the February-April quarter, the joint data from major European centres for medium-term forecasts indicate values above average over central-southern Europe, with a growing probability (40-70%) along the north-south latitudinal axis. Also, the surface temperatures of the Mediterranean are expected to be above average for the entire quarter, with a probability of 70 to 100%. Regarding rainfall, the quarter is expected to trend from wet to normal levels. In particular, February might be, with a probability of 40-50%, wetter than average over much of Italy.