MADRID – Every five years, an area the size of the province of Málaga is affected by the dry climate. Furthermore, this is progressing in Spain by 1,500 square kilometres per year. It is a result of the increase in temperature and the decrease in precipitation.
Spain is getting drier year after year. The arid climate extends throughout the peninsula and islands, displacing the prevailing temperate climates. Over a period of seventy years, the increase in temperature and the decrease in precipitation have caused the area affected by this climate to increase from 10.4% to 21.6% today. According to a study by the State Meteorological Agency (Aemet), the arid climate is expanding at a rate of about 1,500 km2 per year.
Characteristics of the dry climate
The arid climate is characterised by the scarcity of water for plants. Evaporation is greater than precipitation. Aemet spokesman Rubén del Campo explained on Monday that the expansion is mainly due to the rise in temperatures, by almost one and a half degrees (1.4ºC) more than the annual average in Spain.
The fall in precipitation, between 10 and 12%, also had an influence, albeit to a lesser extent due to the less linear evolution. “Every five years, an area equivalent to that of the province of Malaga gets a dry climate in our country,” explains de Aemet. This area is approximately equal to that of the provinces of Brabant and Limburg together.
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In the 1950s there were two separated dry zones in Spain. One on the southern plateau and the other in the southeast of the peninsula. However, they have grown into the same vast dry zone since the 1970s. This water-deficiency climate now predominates in southern areas of the Community of Madrid, where it did not exist before. This includes areas in Castilla-La Mancha, the province of Badajoz, northeast of Andalucia, southwest of Castilla y León and around the Ebro Valley.
Within the arid climates, the steppe occupies the largest area of Spain. This type of area doubled during the study period, from 10% to more than 20%. This growth mainly took place in the 1990s and 2000s. For the time being, the desert climate occupies a residual surface on the peninsula, about 0.3% of the territory and mainly in the southeast of the country.
Reduction of cold areas
As hot and dry climates increase, cold ones decrease. Traditionally, these can be found in the mountain systems, such as in the Pyrenees, the Cantabrian Mountains, the Central and Iberian systems, the Sierra Nevada and on the top of Teide in Tenerife. There they take up less and less space. From 2% of the area of Spain seventy years ago to less than 1%. They lose about 124 km2 per year.
Future growth of the areas difficult to predict
However, with this research, we cannot predict the growth of these areas in the future. The climate “isn’t that linear,” explains Aemet’s spokeswoman, Beatriz Hervella. Everything points to the trend, she said.
Temperatures will also remain above normal this autumn, especially in the Mediterranean region, according to Aemet. The forecast is for September, October and November. In any case, it will remain relatively dry in the northwest of the peninsula, while there is no clear signal for the rest of the country.
Warmest summer in the historical series
With the closing of the summer data, Aemet has confirmed that this summer was the warmest in its historical streak dating back to 1961. The summer was the warmest in the last century according to the other Aemet spokesperson, Ruben del Campo.
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In total 42 days were officially marked as a heatwave. That’s seven times the number of days recorded in the 1980s and 1990s. Then they were barely six days
May has also become a month of full summer characteristics, making the four months, from May to August, the hottest and driest of the entire series.
Summer this year is ‘normal or even’ cold compared to the summers to come
According to forecasts by UN climate change experts, this will be a “normal or even cold summer” relative to the summers expected between 2041-2060, Del Campo said.