‘Trend is clear: Spain can reach 50 degrees’

by Lorraine Williamson
temperatures of 50 degrees could be reached

MADRID – It is “extremely hot” throughout Spain, said Ruben del Campo, spokesman for the weather institute Aemet in the newspaper La Vanguardia. According to the meteorologist, the trend is that the mercury will reach 50 degrees sooner or later in Spain. 

Del Campo indicates in the interview that heatwaves will now not only occur more often but will also become more intense. One of the peaks of the current heatwave that is plaguing Spain was the temperature in the Guadalhorce valley and the Guadiana on Monday with more than 43 degrees. Furthermore, another peak may follow on Wednesday when heat intensifies in the north. What is rarer is that in Catalonia it could reach 40 degrees in the province of Lleida, but also in Zaragoza. Even in the city of Madrid, mercury is likely to rise above 40 degrees these days. Moreover, that is not normal for this moment in June. 

What is striking about this heatwave? 

Del Campo: “Temperatures are very high both during the day and at night. The nights are tropical and the temperature does not fall below 20ºC. This is quite common for the entire peninsula, especially on Monday and Tuesday. But in the south, there will be areas where the nighttime temperatures do not fall below 24 and 25ºC.” 

This is all happening after the second hottest month of May since 1961. That was the second hottest May in the entire historic series, behind only that of 1964; and it is the hottest of this century, surpassing that of 2015. Additionally, it was extremely dry last month. 

Is this heat normal for June? 

Del Campo says ‘no’ outright and continues: “We are getting used to it in recent years. In the past 10 to 12 years there were six heatwaves. Since the beginning of the last decade, we have been going to a heatwave every two years in June If we look further back to 1975 and count down to 2010, we see that in those 35 years there have been five heatwaves announced in June. In other words, in the past 12 years, we have seen (including the current one) six heatwaves. Whereas, in the last 35 years we’ve seen five.” 

What is a heatwave? 

“A heatwave is an episode of very high temperatures that affects much of Spain and lasts at least three days. The technical definition is a little more complicated. A period must have temperatures between 5% of the highest recorded temperatures in July and August for at least three consecutive days and at least 10% of the seasons considered. Therefore, the fact that there is already a heatwave in June is even more relevant. We now already have the highest temperatures in June that normally occur in July and August.” 

Will it still get very hot this summer? 

“It doesn’t have to be a hot summer just because it’s already so warm. However, the seasonal forecasts for this quarter of June, July, and August do tell us that we are extremely likely to have a very warm quarter, warmer than usual. “ 

The latest report on the state of the climate in Spain in 2021 was presented last Thursday. It provides data on warming in Spain. Since 1951, there have been 146 daily high-temperature records and only 14 daily low-temperature records… 

Del Campo: “The temperature in Spain has risen by 1.7ºC. You may think: ‘this is nothing; yesterday it was 10 degrees and today it is 15 degrees, but it is much more. What this increase of 1.7ºC tells us is that many extremes have been registered. The spectacular cold episode of storm Filomena took place in 2021. The plateau was measured at -26ºC. Despite everything, that year had no cold records. On that January 12, 2021, the temperature dropped to -26, but there were other January 12s in the 1970s that were colder.” 

Since when has the temperature in Spain increased by 1.7ºC? 

“Since pre-industrial times, since the middle of the 19th century, the increase in temperature has been going on. Of this 1.7ºC, 1.3ºC corresponds to an increase in the last 60 years. It is evidence of the acceleration of the warming. Since the 1960s, every decade has been warmer.” 

What do you think are the clearest signs of warming in Spain? 

“To me, the most tangible and palpable indicators are the increase in the number and length of heat waves and the intensification of temperature records. The data is overwhelming. The heat waves of the past decade (not counting now just June), from 2011 to 2020, were twice as frequent as during previous decades.” 

“In the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s we had about 11 or 12 heat waves every decade. And in the last decade 2011-2020, we had 24 heatwaves; that number has doubled. In the last decade, there were twice as many heat waves as in any of the previous decades.” 

“En its intensity… A 3-day heatwave is not the same as a 27-day wave… If we look at the number of days per summer that Spain was in a heatwave situation, there is another significant figure. In the 80s, 90s, and 2000s in Spain, we had an average of six days in a heat wave situation. And in the decade from 2011 to 2020, that averaged 14 days. So more than doubled.” 

50 degrees Celsius in Spain? 

Del Campo says he does not have a crystal ball to see whether the warming and increase in the number of heat waves and temperature records are a result of human activities. The highest temperature ever recorded in 2021 was in Montoro (Córdoba) at 47.3ºC. Del Campo does know that the trend is that sooner or later it will be possible in Spain to reach 50 degrees. “It will be the next decade or the next. Montoro’s record will certainly be broken. If we have seen temperatures of 47 degrees or a little more in the last five years, then it does not seem very unlikely that the mercury will do this.” A decade or the next approaching or even exceeding 50 degrees.” 


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