Record-breaking October heatwave in Spain

by Lorraine Williamson
record breaking October
ASSSA

MADRID – Anyone in Spain these days has undoubtedly noticed that it’s unusually warm. For several days now, temperatures in much of the country have been consistently above 30°C, sometimes even higher, resembling summer temperatures making October already a record-breaking month. 

On Sunday, October 1st, Badajoz reached 38°C, and Montoro (Córdoba) recorded 38.2°C, surpassing their previous records for the highest temperature ever recorded in Spain during the month of October. The previous record was 37.5°C, recorded in Marbella (Málaga) in October 2014. This development likely confirms the warmest start to October in Spain since records began, according to Rubén del Campo, spokesperson for the Spanish Meteorological Agency (Aemet), on Monday. 

Also read: Exceptionally warm weekend in Spain

Records at 35 measuring stations 

Remarkably, 35 measuring stations across the country, including those in the far north, even set new monthly records, primarily for maximum temperatures, and two for minimum temperatures. These records were set in places like Lugo, Ourense, Soria, Burgos, Valladolid, Ávila, Segovia, Salamanca, Zamora, Getafe, Toledo, Cáceres, Ciudad Real, Jaén, Córdoba, Granada, Sevilla, Cuenca, Teruel, Pamplona, Zaragoza, and Lleida. 

“Unusual and concerning” 

“It’s unusual and concerning because these are exceptionally high temperatures for this time of year, likely without precedent,” noted Del Campo of Aemet. What’s most concerning is that several records were broken with a certainty that defies all statistics. 

“Remarkable is the record at Salamanca Airport, which was broken by 3.3°C. It reached 34.8°C, while the previous record was 31.5°C in 2017 in a series nearly 80 years old,” explained Del Campo. He also pointed out Burgos, which reached a maximum of 32.1°C, again 3 degrees higher than its previous record of 29.1°C in 2004. “Burgos had never reached 30 degrees in October, so surpassing the record by 3 degrees is truly astounding,” added Roberto Granda, a meteorologist from Eltiempo.es, in the newspaper El País on Monday. 

It’s also noteworthy that Daroca (Zaragoza), a station with over a century of history, reached 34.4°C . The previous record was 32.9°C, 1.5 degrees lower, dating back to October 1925, 98 years ago. Another age-old station, El Retiro in Madrid, equalled its record with 30 degrees Celsius, a level last reached in 1930. On the island of Gran Canaria, some southern areas reached 36°C. So far, no records have been broken there, as the highest temperatures for October on the islands are above 39°C. 

32°C or more at 350 observatories 

Granda also highlighted records set in mountainous regions, such as Navacerrada (Madrid), which exceeded its maximum temperature record dating back to 1955. Approximately 350 observatories, nearly 40% of the total, reported temperatures of 32°C or higher on Sunday, with most places in the country recording temperatures 7°C to 14°C above normal for this time of year. 

Furthermore, September 29th, 30th, and October 1st were recorded as record-warm days. These were the warmest days compared to the same dates since 1950. Aemet also expects 10 more records this week. 

Late heatwave 

Aemet has not been able to determine the end of this heatwave yet. It began on Thursday, with the hottest days occurring on Sunday and Monday. “This week will remain very warm for this time of year, although there will be fluctuations depending on the days and regions,” said the Aemet spokesperson. 

Temperatures 5 to 10 degrees above normal 

In general, temperatures will remain above 30°C in most of the country, ranging from 32-34°C in the south and 34-36°C in the Guadiana, Guadalquivir, and some other areas. “These are maximum temperatures 5-10°C above normal, and in some places, especially in the north, 10-15°C above normal,” added Del Campo. 

Up to 37 degrees celsius in Bilbao on Monday 

On Monday, with Cantabria, the Basque Country, and the Canary Islands under a yellow weather alert, little change is expected. “Temperatures will drop in parts of the Mediterranean and the Balearic Islands, as well as in Galicia, but they will rise in the Cantabrian region,” said the Aemet spokesperson. He warned that Bilbao could reach temperatures of up to 37°C. 

Temperatures will again range between 36°C and 38°C in the Guadiana and Guadalquivir River basins and between 30°C and 34°C in most of the rest of the peninsula, the Balearic Islands, and the Canary Islands. 

Record-breaking October not ruled out

Moreover, it’s not ruled out that the previous October temperature record might still be broken. “Exceeding 38.2°C in Montoro is theoretically more difficult, but it’s not impossible,” said the meteorologist. Granda also pointed out that cities along the Cantabrian coast, such as Bilbao, Santander, and San Sebastián, could break their monthly records. 

Tuesday will bring cooler temperatures to the northern third of Spain, especially in the Cantabrian regions. There, it will be 10 degrees cooler than on Monday, or even more. In the rest of the country, temperatures will remain somewhat consistent, ranging from 30-32°C in many areas, including the Balearic Islands, 32-34°C in the south and the Canary Islands, where the heat will increase, and 34-36°C in many parts of Extremadura and Andalucia, with 36-38°C in some inland areas of Huelva and the Guadalquivir region. 

Wednesday will see stable weather prevailing without any rain expected at any point. As has been the case since Thursday, the highest temperatures will be reached in the Guadiana and Guadalquivir River basins, ranging between 35 and 37°C. “It will also remain warm in the Canary Islands,” added the Aemet spokesperson. 

Heat until Saturday 

“It’s likely that at the beginning of next week, a temperature drop will occur when a frontal system may bring some rainfall, especially in the northwest,” predicted this expert. “The heat will persist at least until Saturday, and we will see if more follows,” concluded Granda. 

In these days, climate deniers have seized upon the expression “veranillo de San Miguel” (Saint Michael’s little summer) to downplay the uniqueness of this situation. Marta Ferri of Aemet says, “Veranillo de San Miguel is not a climatological constant; there is no fixed pattern. Cold and mild days are equally common during the week of Saint Michael, and there have been festivities with very bad weather.”  

Extension of summer at the expense of spring and autumn 

“There is no ‘veranillo’,” Roberto Granda also emphasised, as he analysed average maximum temperatures for these dates from the 1960s to the last decade, 2011-2020. The result of his study shows that “the extension of summer comes at the expense of spring and autumn in Spain.” “Since the 1960s, the summer season has increased by 30 to 40 days in nearly the entire country, meaning an extra month of summer in just 50 years,” he explained. In Tortosa, for example, there is nearly a 4-degree difference between the decade of 2011-2020 and the coldest decade. The beginning of summer falls in May in almost all of Spain, and it ends in September or October. “Tortosa (Tarragona), an urban-influenced station, is the best example: there, summer has been extended by two months,” emphasised this meteorologist. 

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