MILAN (AP) — Hailstones the size of tennis balls temporarily closed a highway in northern Italy and damaged dozens of cars, in an extreme example of a weather phenomenon that an agricultural lobby said Tuesday has intensified in recent years.
“We are facing in Italy the consequences of climate change, with a trend toward tropicalization and the multiplication of extreme events,” Coldiretti said, citing more frequent, sudden and violent storms, short and intense rainfalls and rapids changes from sunny skies to storms.
Coldiretti estimates 14 billion euros ($16.5 billion) of damage over the last decade to agriculture production, buildings and infrastructure because of climate change-provoked events like flooding and landslides.
Video of a severe hailstorm near the northern city of Modena on Monday showed cars with windshields shattered by the hailstones pulled over on the side of a highway as stunned drivers and passengers surveyed the damage.
While hailstorms are a common summer feature in Italy’s Po River Valley, meteorologist Luca Lombroso told the Bologna daily, il Resto di Carlino, that the strength and frequency of hailstorms this year has made the phenomenon “unusual.”
Coldiretti said its analysis shows that hailstorms are occurring at the rate of 11 a day this summer, with 386 recorded so far this year. That compares with a few dozen a year up to six years ago, a rate that grew to 92 in 2018 and 198 in 2019.
“The dimension of the hailstones also has changed, growing considerably in the last years with the real ice blocks falling from the sky even bigger than tennis balls,” Coldiretti said.
Hailstorms can wipe out entire fields or orchards of vegetable and fruit. Coldiretti attributes a 40% drop in peach and apricot harvests and a 50% drop in nectarines to “this crazy climate.”
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