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CLIMATE CRISIS

‘2.7C above normal’: Spain registers hottest month on record

July certainly felt like a scorcher, but it was revealed that it was in fact the hottest month in Spain since records began in 1961.

heatwave in Spain
July 2022 was hottest on record in Spain. Photo: THOMAS COEX / AFP

The average temperature during July was 26.6C, which is 2.7C above normal, revealed Spain’s state meteorological agency AEMET on Monday.

The July heatwave caused scorching temperatures across most of the country, including the Balearic and the Canary Islands.

The high temperatures were caused when an Atlantic anticyclone displaced a very warm African air mass over the Iberian Peninsula, explained AEMET spokesman Ruben del Campo.

The wave that affected the peninsula and the Balearic Islands between July 9th and 26th was “the most significant since records began” said AEMET, adding that it was also the “most intense and the most extensive, as well as the second longest”.

Spain suffered its longest heatwave in 2015, which lasted 26 days, however, the average temperature for the whole country was 0.2°C below this year’s average. Up until now, July 2015 was the hottest in Spain since records began 61 years ago.

This July also “far surpassed” the heatwave of August last year, with temperatures 4.8°C above the hottest month in 2021.

READ ALSO: Spanish climate deniers use past heat records to sow doubt online

Which parts of Spain experienced the greatest rise in temperatures?

Not all parts of the country were affected equally in July. The mercury was 5C above normal in Galicia, southern and central Castilla y León, Madrid, Extremadura, and western Castilla La-Mancha, as well as the interior of Andalusia and the Pyrenees.

The daily maximum temperatures were on average 3.3C above normal, while the minimum temperatures were 2.2C higher than normal, “resulting in a daily thermal oscillation of 1.1 C, which is higher than average for July”, explained AEMET.

The Carlos III Health Institute estimated that, between July 1st and 29th, there were 9,687 more deaths than expected for that period, of which 2,124 were attributed to the sweltering hot weather.

One of the driest months on record 

Not only did July 2022 see roasting conditions, but it was also the driest month in the last 15 years. During this time there was an average rainfall over mainland Spain of 8.6mm. It was also the driest month of the entire 21st century, behind the months of July in 2005 and 2007.

The areas most affected by the lack of rain were Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, the Basque Country and Castilla y León, Extremadura, Soria and eastern Catalonia, many of which usually experience the greatest amount of rain in the country.

In the Canary Islands, however, it was the third wettest July of the 21st century.

READ ALSO – Drought: Where in Spain are there limits on water usage?

Heatwaves across Europe

But it wasn’t only Spain that experienced intense heatwaves. July 2022 was also the sixth hottest in Europe since records began according to Copernicus, the European Union’s Earth Observation Programme.

Last month was also one of the three hottest Julys globally on record, registering 0.4C above the reference period from 1991 to 2020. Only July 2019 and 2016 exceeded this year’s temperature.

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CLIMATE CRISIS

Record-breaking winter temperatures warm Europe

Europe has seen "extreme" warm winter weather in recent days, experts have said, with 2023 already posting record temperatures for January across the region.

Record-breaking winter temperatures warm Europe

As temperatures rise globally because of human-caused climate change, scientists say heatwaves and spells of warmer-than-average weather are becoming more common throughout the year.

After experiencing searing summer heat and a drought unprecedented in centuries, a wave of warm weather across Europe this winter has melted the snow from ski slopes in the Alps and Pyrenees, and seen temperatures above 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) even in normally-freezing central
regions.   

Several European countries saw record-breaking heat on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Hundreds of weather stations across Europe have recorded all-time highest daily temperatures for the months of December or January, it said this week.

Freja Vamborg, Senior Scientist at Europe’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), said the current winter heatwave is an “extreme” heat event in Europe in terms of how far temperatures have deviated from what is expected at this time of year.   

Here Vamborg answers some key questions about the heatwave:

What caused these high temperatures?

“On the 1st of January there was a strong flow of air from the southwest across the affected area, which would have brought warmer air further north and penetrated unusually far east, reaching even to Belarus. Minimal snow cover was very probably another relevant factor.”

“The circulation of any given weather situation and climate change are not two independent things. Climate change itself also has an impact on the circulation, and will also impact how warm those moving air masses are. This is what makes it so complex to disentangle just simply a weather event, from
the level to which climate change influenced such an event.”

How is climate change involved?

“With increasing global temperatures, heatwaves and warm spells are becoming more frequent and intense — this is not restricted to the summer months.”

“While the warming trend in Europe is on average stronger in the warmer seasons, winters are also becoming warmer as a result of global temperatures.”

“Northern Europe has warmed more strongly in winter than in summer, while in the south the warming trend is more apparent in summer.”

What is the impact of these high winter temperatures?

“A couple of things can be mentioned for warm temperatures during the winter months. While it means less need for heating of housing and other infrastructures, low snow cover affects the winter tourism industry.”

“Possible impacts on natural ecosystems, include early return from hibernation, which may have negative impacts if followed by much less mild/freezing conditions.”

“The overall impact will be different depending on the longevity and intensity of the event.”

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