Will Ice Saints bring frost or a tropical surprise to Spain this year?

by Lorraine Williamson
Will the ice saints bring frost?

MADRID – The Ice Saints, as they are popularly called, celebrate their name days from May 10 to 14. In folk weather, this is the last period in the spring when there is still a chance of (night) frost. 

After Ice Saints, frost is very unlikely and the risk period for agriculture in most areas in the Spanish interior will come to an end. However, in several provincial capitals, it is still possible for frost in the first two weeks of May. 

Climatic averages from the last 30 or 40 years show that in cities such as Teruel, Segovia, or León it rarely freezes for more than 2 consecutive years in May. In Ávila it freezes for about two days on average during this month. 

The Ice Saints terrify farmers in many areas of the interior of Spain, especially in the mountainous regions. The frost poses a threat to trees and newly planted crops. 

Cold or tropical nights 

This year the conditions are such that the chance of frost seems out of the question. Anticyclonic circulation has ground to a halt in southwestern Europe and will not change in the coming days. This means that there will be no strong movement of warm air, but this will not stop the gradual rise in temperatures towards summer values. So much so that nights can remain tropically warm in some areas. 

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Spain does not need this movement of warm air at this time of year; the peninsula behaves like a mini-continent where high solar radiation can create its warm air mass. On weekends, the anticyclone moves east, creating a south-westerly movement that can carry subtropical air into the peninsula. Temperatures can even soar to record highs, reaching nearly 35 degrees Celsius in many areas. 

From Monday influence of the Atlantic front 

In the western half of Spain, temperatures will remain unchanged or will even drop from Monday. Then uncertainty about the weather increases due to the presence of a front in the Atlantic Ocean. This could promote the arrival of storms inland and on the northern half of the peninsula, with hail posing a threat to agriculture. 

Who are the Ice Saints? 

The Ice Saints are Saint Mamertus, Saint Pancratius, Saint Servatius and Saint Boniface. They celebrate their name days on 11, 12, 13, and 14 May successively. Their name days fall in mid-May. And according to folklore, these are the last days of spring when there are sometimes night frosts. 

Officially there are five ice saints and Sophia of Rome on May 15 (also known as cold Sophie) is still one of them. However, since three is a sacred number, there are usually only three Ice Saints ‘in use’. 

Also read: The Ice Saints 2021

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