Spain is currently experiencing a meteorological phenomenon of historic proportions. A vast subtropical anticyclone is set to leave the country in a state akin to a drought, a situation not seen in at least 42 years.
The atmospheric conditions are so extraordinary that some meteorologists, like González Alemán, describe it as a “once in 80 years event.” This deep warm anticyclone is a stark reminder of the serious implications of climate change on our weather patterns.
The anticyclone is characterised by a geopotential height of an astounding 594 dam this January. This is indicating that the entire tropospheric column – not just a single atmospheric level – is experiencing exceptionally high temperatures for this time of the year. The implications of this are problematic, and in the current context, extremely concerning.
Unusually high temperatures
The immediate effect of this stable weather pattern is that temperatures in many parts of Spain will be 8 to 12 degrees above the average. The temperatures will reaching highs more typical of May. Some areas of the country are expected to experience temperatures of 26 degrees Celsius within a few days. These conditions are not only unusual but alarming. Namely, as they reflect a pattern of high-temperature episodes that meteorologists have observed in both the USA and Europe in recent months.
The absence of rain
More worrying than the high temperatures is the strength of the anticyclone. This acts as a formidable barrier against any storms that might bring much-needed rain to the Iberian Peninsula. The Canary Islands may be an exception due to their natural shield. However, even there, rainfall is not expected.
The real concern lies in the water scarcity. Regardless of the model consulted, the forecasts for the next 8 to 10 days are grim. It is highly probable that January will end with the same low precipitation levels as observed to date. The stability brought by the anticyclone seems unlikely to dissipate before February. And February normally brings erratic weather. So, hopefully it will bring some instability and much-needed rainfall.
The impact on air quality
A subtropical anticyclone of this scale during winter has another significant impact: increased urban pollution. Despite the warmer temperatures, the reality is that experts expect air quality in urban areas to deteriorate, potentially reaching levels hazardous to health. Because January is a time when thousands of boilers burn fossil fuels in the heart of cities. As long as the anticyclone remains stationary,