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File photo. A man drinks water during a heatwave in Malaga Lorenzo Carnero

Spain sizzles in unseasonal heatwave for second time in two months

Temperature warnings are in place for most of the country with highs of more than 40 degrees, an unusual sight for June.

SPAIN HAS BEEN hit with blistering temperatures in a heatwave hotter than the weather expected at this point in the year – for the second time in two months.

Temperatures in the high 30s and low 40s this week have sparked concern over conditions that aren’t typically seen until July and August, rising between 7 and 12 degrees higher than the average for this time of year.

Climate experts told The Journal that while hot weather in Spain is not uncommon during summer, the early, intense onset is surprising and consistent with unsettled patterns caused by climate change.

The heatwave is expected to last until at least Saturday and possibly into Sunday, especially in the east of the country, according to the country’s meteorological agency AEMET.

AEMET spokesman Ruben del Campo has said that it is “not normal” to have such an extreme heatwave at this time of the year.

Spain had already experienced heat unusually high for the period as recently as last month when temperatures soared into the high 30s in many locations.

Speaking to The Journal, Dr Enric Aguilar at the Universitat Rovira i Virgil’s Centre for Climate Change explained: “This is not the first heatwave we have had this season, it is actually the second one. We had the first one in late May.”

“Both, but especially the one in May, are quite out of season,” he said.

The hot weather and how it came to Spain – by hot air travelling north from northern Africa – are not unusual in and of themselves, he said, but “what brings concern is how early it is happening”.

Records that have been kept over the last fifty years show that Spain has “never had a heatwave like that in May and it’s also very unlikely to have it in June”.

Similarly, the country’s minister for ecological transition Teresa Ribera has said that the “early, record-breaking heatwave, coming on top of another heatwave less than a month ago” is “extraordinarily worrying”.

Some temperatures in mid-May were “practically unheard of” for that month, prompting the Spanish government to advise people to wear light clothing, stay hydrated and take extra care of children and vulnerable people.

Earlier this year, India and Pakistan were also struck by heatwaves well above expectations for the time of year.

India’s average maximum temperatures were at their highest of any March in 122 years and April was the hottest and second-driest that Pakistan experienced since 1961.

Temperature warnings are in place for most of Spain this afternoon, with highs expected from the mid-30s up to 42 degrees Celsius.

Today’s forecast is also bringing storms for some areas in the north, including Girona, with a warning of “very strong” local winds.

There is also an “extreme” risk of wildfires. 

On Monday, the southern town of Montoro in the inland Córdoba province recorded a high of 42.9 degrees Celsius.

At beachside tourist destinations, coastal breezes may offer some relief but the heat remains intense and visitors have been warned to take extra care to protect themselves from the sun.

madrid-spain-14th-june-2022-a-man-cools-off-in-the-water-of-a-fountain-during-a-heatwave-high-temperatures-are-causing-the-first-heatwave-of-the-year-with-several-communities-of-spain-at-risk-for A man tries to cool off in a fountain in Madrid on 14 June Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Globally, every decade in the last forty years has been warmer than any decade before it since 1850, according to the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

In Europe, the frequency and intensity of hot weather extremes have risen in recent decades, the IPCC’s latest report on the physical science of climate change reported.

In the Mediterranean, it’s expected that precipitation will decrease and, if the globe warms by 2 degrees Celsius, there’ll be an increase in droughts and conditions conducive to fires.

Professor Patrizia Ziveri, a research professor at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona’s Institute of Environmental Science and Technology, told The Journal that the Mediterranean is a “hotspot for climate change”.

She outlined that the Mediterranean’s climate has traditionally been considered an appealing one, with the historical development of civilisations in the region facilitated by its mild climate.

However, it is now becoming hotter and drier.

“This process of a reducing pattern of precipitation and having higher frequency of heatwaves, that’s something that is related to climate change,” Professor Ziveri said.

“What we see in models is that the precipitation pattern is changing. This rain that is not going to be in this region in northwest Africa and south of Spain, is actually moving to the north.”

“Unfortunately, this pattern of climate is that the heatwaves and extreme events are increasing in their frequency and their effects. We need to adapt, but also we need to do something about mitigation [of the climate crisis], because it’s the only way.”

In 2021, the average temperature on mainland Spain was 14.3 degrees Celsius, which AEMET’s annual climate report described as “very warm” and half a degree about the annual average between 1981 and 2010.

Since its records began in 1961, eight of the ten warmest years have been in the 21st century, with seven of those in the decade between 2011 and 2020.

Spain adopted its first climate law last year, which committed it to cutting emissions by 23% by 2030 compared to 1990. It also plans to reduce energy consumption by 39.5% and, much later, end the production of fossil fuels by 2042.

In comparison, Ireland’s 2030 target is to cut emissions by 55% compared to 2018. Both countries are aiming to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

“There is an agenda approved by the Minister about reducing carbon emissions and becoming carbon neutral in a few decades,” Professor Ziveri said.

“I hope it’s not too late, because what we are doing in the next decade is critical, not in the next century.”

Additional reporting by AFP

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