Sixth driest hydrological year of the century in Spain

by Lorraine Williamson
The century´s sixth driest hydrological year

Spain is experiencing the longest drought in the south and the most intense drought in the northeast after the century´s sixth driest hydrological year. The hydrological year ran from 1 October 2022 to 30 September 2023

The basins of the Guadiana and Guadalquivir rivers and southern basins suffered the longest drought and the eastern Pyrenees and the Ebro had the most intense drought. That is the conclusion after concluding the sixth driest hydrological year – 2022-2023 – of this century. There was 12% less precipitation than normal. 

It is the 12th driest year since 1961, when the historic series began, the Spanish State Meteorological Agency (AEMET) confirmed. Accumulated rainfall was 561 litres per square metre on the peninsula. This is 12% less than the normal amount of 640 litres in the 1991-2020 reference period. 

This value gives the recently concluded hydrological year a ‘dry’ character. Looking at the whole of Spain, including islands, precipitation across Spain would be 555 litres per square metre. This is also 12% less than the average for the 1991-2020 reference period (634 litres per square metre).  

Water shortage 

Del Campo indicated that the water deficit is more than 25% in the north-east and south-west of the peninsula, in more remote areas of Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Country and in most of the Canary Islands, mainly in the easternmost islands. La Palma and the southern half of Tenerife are the exceptions. 

According to the data, Spain is in a situation of prolonged meteorological drought from 2022 onwards. Del Campo highlights the situation of the basins of the eastern Pyrenees, especially Catalonia, and the Ebro, i.e. the entire north-eastern third of the peninsula, where there is the most intense drought, although “all” basins with precipitation accumulation are in drought.  

Cogesa Expats

The Guadiana, Guadalquivir and southern basins are suffering from the longest meteorological drought since at least 1961, and he points out that in these three basins the drought started in spring 2016, more than seven years ago. ‘It is not the most intense drought, but it is the longest in the whole historical series, which started in 1961 and already exceeds in duration those of the 1980s and 1990s,’ Del Campo said. 

He compared the current drought with those of the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s and recent years. His conclusion is that the current drought ‘is not as long as those of the beginning of this century or the great droughts of the late 20th century, but is very intense’. 

Will coming months be wetter than normal? 

Although the weather forecast suggests that the coming months, until February, could be wetter than normal, Del Campo does not believe that the drought can be stopped yet, no matter how much rain falls. He indicates that to end the prolonged meteorological drought between this autumn and winter, there would have to be two “very, very rainy” seasons, among the wettest in the historical series.  

To return to normal values, at least 230 litres more per square metre would have to fall than the average. This has occurred only once since 1961, in the year1965. 

Also read: Rain train in Spain


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