A freak weather event could see Europe baking in temperatures as high as 50C. this weekend in what is being described as a 'catastrophic heatwave'.

Plumes of scorching air from North Africa will begin to engulf large parts of the Continent, with Italy the first to experience the brutal heat on Sunday.

Charged by rare sirocco winds, the sweltering conditions will then spread towards Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey.

Forecasters expect the mercury to smash through 40C (104F) this weekend before climbing up to 45C (113F) and even 50C (122F) by the end of next week.

The highest-ever temperature in Europe was recorded on July 10, 1977, when the mercury hit 48C (118F) in Athens, Greece.

Jan Schenk, head of The Weather Channel, Germany, said: “A catastrophic heatwave is heading for southern Europe and, brace yourselves, up to 50C is possible next week, the temperature record of all of Europe could be broken. It is currently at 48C.

“What will happen? The sirocco wind will blow incredibly strong from North Africa to Italy and all the way to Romania and will push this Sahara air to the southeast of Europe.

“And at some point, it will be impossible to distinguish between the different air masses and then it will be as hot in Greece as it is in the Sahara and then we will experience big heat and will see temperatures rise to 43C to 45C and in some areas 50C are possible.”

Sirocco winds are native to North Africa and the Mediterranean.

The Met Office describes the winds of the weather event as “hot and dry and often carries much dust”.

The extreme weather phenomenon also comes with the increased risk of wildfires across the continent.

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