December weather in 2023 warmer and drier than average in Spain

by Lorraine Williamson
subtropical anticyclone

December 2023 ranks as the seventh warmest December in this century. The temperature was 0.8 degrees Celsius (ºC) than the average (7.5ºC). In terms of drought, December finished in sixth place, according to the Spanish weather service AEMET.

It was the fourteenth warmest December and the tenth driest December since records began in 1961. It was especially warm to very warm in the following areas;

  • most of the eastern half of the Iberian Peninsula
  • the Cantabrian Sea
  • Balearic Islands
  • Canary Islands

In the rest of the Spanish mainland it was normal to slightly cooler than usual.

Biggest temperature differences

The areas with the largest temperature differences compared to normal values for the period 1991-2020 were, by 1ºC as follows;

  • most of Catalonia
  • Aragon
  • Navarre
  • the Basque Country
  • La Rioja
  • Valencian Community
  • the Region of Murcia
  • Cantabrian Mountains
  • the Central System and the Iberian System

Furthermore, in a number of places these regions it was on average more than +2 °C warmer.

In the rest of mainland Spain, the deviations were mostly between 0 °C and -1 °C, while in the Balearic Islands they were around +1 °C and in the Canary Islands between +1 °C and +2 °C.

Daily highs were 1.2°C above normal, while lows were 0.3°C above average, bringing daily temperature fluctuations to 0.9°C above normal.

Major differences: hot and cold periods

AEMET highlights the warm period between December 8 and 13, with temperatures well above normal, especially on December 10 and 12. Three short cold spells were also observed, the first between 2 and 6 December, with maximum and minimum temperatures below normal values, and then between 17-20 and 24-26 December.  

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Highest recorded temperatures

The highest temperatures of the main stations were measured in Málaga (airport), with 29.4°C on December 12, in Tenerife Sur/airport, with 28.6°C on the 9th; Santa Cruz de Tenerife, with 28.0°C on the 11th and Melilla, with 27.8°C on the 12th. In addition, five main stations recorded the highest daily maximum temperature for December since records have been made.

Minimum temperatures

In terms of minimum temperatures, the following main stations stand out: -8.9 °C in Molina de Aragón on 27 December. In Soria, -7.9 °C was measured on the 25th. It was -7.4 °C in Teruel on the 27th and -6.8 °C in León on the 19th. In addition, on the 10th, the highest daily minimum temperature for a December since the beginning of the series was recorded at the main station of Soria at 9.8 °C.

Drier than average

December was drier than average. The average precipitation value over the Spanish peninsula was 33.4 litres per square metre (l/m2). This makes December the sixth driest month of the 21st century and the third driest in the Balearic Islands, after 2015 and 1974.

On the other hand, Galicia, the northeast of Cantabria, the north of Navarre and the Basque Country, and the interior of Castile and Leon were normal to wet. In areas in northwestern Galicia and northern Navarre, it was very wet.

First ten days

Although it rained abundantly in the first ten days of the month and affected the entire peninsula, more precipitation fell in the western and northern halves of the peninsula and in the western Canary Islands. In the provinces of A Coruña and Pontevedra, more than 100 l/m2 and even more than 150 l/m2 fell in the interior of these provinces.

Second half of December

In the second half of the month, rain fell on almost the entire peninsula, with the exception of the east of the peninsula and the interior of Aragon. The most significant precipitation, more than 30 l/m2, was recorded in Galicia and the Cantabrian coast and more than 120 l/m2 fell in northern Navarre. There was hardly any rain in the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands.

In the last ten days the precipitation the western half of the Iberian Peninsula and the Canary Islands. More than 10 l/m2 fell on all the Canary Islands, Galicia and in a strip in the north of the peninsula from Cantabria to the Navarrese Pyrenees. The heaviest precipitation fell in Galicia, where 120 l/m2 was recorded in A Coruña.

Read also: New heat record in Spain with almost 30 degrees in December

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