Climate change, as scientists have been warning for years, does not only mean an increase in average temperatures on the planet. This crisis also triggers extreme events, which often combine. And this meteorological spring (from March to May) in Spain is a clear example, as extreme heat and lack of rainfall coincide. Because, as detailed by the State Meteorological Agency (Aemet) on Tuesday, this spring has been the warmest in the historical series, in addition to the second driest.
The average temperatures of spring 2023 have been 1.8 degrees Celsius above normal, taking as reference the period between 1991 and 2020. And 0.3 degrees above the last hottest spring on record to date, 1997. "We are already getting used to records," explained Rubén del Campo, spokesman for Aemet. For example, in the last 12 months, three of the four seasons have been record-breaking: summer 2022, autumn 2022 and spring 2023 have been the warmest on record.
In the case of mainland Spain, the average spring temperature has been 1.8 degrees above normal; in the Balearic Islands, 0.7; and in the Canary Islands, 1.9. "March and April were very warm, and May was normal," Del Campo recalled.
The flip side of this climate emergency is the lack of rain. "This year's is the second warmest spring in the historical series," said this Aemet spokesman. And, although in recent weeks there have been rains, the problem is far from being solved. Because Spain drags as a whole a situation of "long-term drought" and the hope to try to reverse the situation is already set in the autumn. Both in the case of temperatures and rainfall, the historical series that is taken as a reference starts in 1961.
Aemet has also made this Monday a projection on what is expected for June, July and August. Estrella Gutiérrez, also a member of this state agency, has pointed out that there is a "high probability" that Spain will live again a warmer summer than normal, especially in the eastern half of the country and in the archipelagos. Models suggest that there is a 50% to 70% chance that this summer will be one of the five hottest on record in the period between 1993 and 2010.
Regarding the rains, Gutiérrez explained that the models suggest that it could be a rainier summer than average. But, as Del Campo has pointed out, this will most likely not solve the problem of drought in Spain, because the amount of water that falls in the summer is very low. It was precisely in the spring — and last fall — that aquifers and reservoirs should have been recharged, which are now at 47.42% of their capacity, more than 20 percentage points below the average of the last 10 years.
An operator drinks water during a break while performing water channeling tasks on a street in Granada, on July 14, 2022.Miguel Ángel Molina / efe
A record 2022
Aemet has also presented the report on the state of the climate of Spain referred to 2022, which also closed as a record year. Because last year was the warmest in Spain, also in the historical series, in addition to being a very dry year. To this was added the 41 days in which mainland Spain and the Balearic Islands were officially in a heat wave situation, something never previously recorded in the country.
To this situation was added that the temperatures of the Spanish maritime waters reached unprecedented temperatures and other very prominent extreme weather phenomena, "such as the important entry of dust in suspension in March, or local phenomena, but very intense, related to storms in summer, "added Aemet this Wednesday through a note.
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