Spain faces a scorching summer amid persistent drought

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summer temperatures

Despite 6% more rainfall in the first half of 2024 across large parts of Spain, the persistent drought remains unresolved. Spain is bracing for a scorching summer, with temperatures expected to be 2 degrees higher than usual, exacerbating the ongoing water crisis.

The upcoming autumn will be critical in determining the trajectory of the worrying drought, especially in the south and west of the country. Water reserves in Murcia, Andalucia, and Valencia are particularly depleted, with only 24.32%, 39.27%, and 39.93% of their capacities filled, respectively. Almería in Andalucia is in the direst situation, with just 8% of its water reserves remaining, and an exceptionally hot summer is still ahead.

Irregular rainfall and ongoing drought

This year, summer has taken longer to arrive than usual. June 2024 was the first relatively cold month since April 2022, with an average temperature of 19.9°C, slightly below the normal June average of 20.1°C. June also brought more than double the expected rainfall, making it the fifth wettest June of the 21st century. However, the rainfall was unevenly distributed across the country. While the west and central Spain received more rain than usual, the Mediterranean region and the islands remained dry.

Prolonged drought in many regions

Catalonia and Andalucia have been the hardest hit by the drought this year. Both regions implemented water use restrictions as early as January. Although March provided temporary relief with 120 litres of rain per square metre, long-term drought remains a problem. Water restrictions in both regions have been eased somewhat, partly to accommodate the crucial tourism sector. Nevertheless, the standardised precipitation index indicates that Spain has experienced a significant decline in rainfall since 2021.

Regional variations in drought

The drought situation varies by region. The Atlantic basins in the northwest are now free of drought on an annual basis but still suffer from prolonged drought due to previous deficits. The Guadalquivir basin’s situation is particularly concerning. Despite higher rainfall in February and March, June showed a slight decrease compared to 2023. The Mediterranean side continues to experience both short and long-term drought, except for the Ebro River basin. The north is not spared either, although the northern basins are technically not in drought.

Scorching summer forecast

With the summer months underway, the AEMET forecasts a “scorching summer” with temperatures potentially 2 degrees higher than normal. This could further negatively impact drought indicators. The coming autumn will be decisive in how the drought evolves in Spain. While drought is common in Spain’s climate, the current duration and intensity are record-breaking, particularly in the south and Catalonia.

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