What is meant by the meteorological ‘onion days’ in Spain?

by Lorraine Williamson
onion days

MADRID – There is now no talk of a ‘gota fría‘, DANA, or ‘cálima‘ but of a cebolla meteorológica‘  (meteorological onion) when describing the weather pattern that will dominate in Spain in the coming period. 

These are all four indications for weather conditions that we do not know in our northern parts. Although the meteorological onion in Spain also deserves some explanation. 

The autumn period in Spain is characterised by large temperature differences from mornings to afternoons and from afternoons to evenings. Also, there is a large temperature difference between the interior and the coast and north and south of the country.

The thermal ‘accordion’ will split Spain in two with thermometers reaching 40 degrees in different parts of the country. Whereas in other parts of the country, residents will be reaching for their winter coats. 

In this relatively short transition from summer to the usually mild winter, temperatures will gradually begin to vary and fall. A decrease that is initiated by the shorter days and decreasing strength of the sun. The number of rain showers and storms and other meteorological phenomena is therefore increasing. 

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‘The onion days are back’ 

Rubén del Campo, spokesman for the Spanish Meteorological Agency (Aemet) and now a celebrity in the country for his announcements of special meteorological phenomena has introduced the term ‘onion’ when describing the temporal characteristics of the weather during these autumn days. He did so in his official Twitter account. 

“The onion days are back,” the meteorologist wrote. This period is characterised by a “cool atmosphere in the early morning and warm in the afternoon. This can be more than 20ºC difference in some areas,” he explains. 

Onion days are therefore those days when the thermal difference between mornings and afternoons is greatest and it is important to prepare for this by means of your clothing. Del Campo writes that you should “leave the house with several layers of clothing” (as layered as onions are) that we take off one by one as the weather warms until we get to summer. We peel off layers of ourselves, as it were. 

Common cold 

It is also precisely the weather conditions that increase the risk of contracting a cold. Especially in children who run around outside, play sports and sweat in thin clothing, and continue to do so while the temperature is experiencing a significant drop in the meantime.

Or they take a dip in the pool and sea while the mercury still shows values ​​of well above 25 degrees and an hour later it may have dropped 10 degrees with a rising wind as a result. That’s why dressing like an onion is so important. While you keep peeling off layer by layer during the morning, you put it back on piece by piece at the end of the day. 


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