Spain braces for heatwave of ‘extraordinary intensity’

 Friday, May 20, 2022 


Temperatures in parts of southern Spain are forecast to exceed 42C on Saturday as a heatwave of “extraordinary intensity” brings dusty skies, a heightened risk of forest fires and blistering conditions more usually seen in high summer than mid-May.

The Spanish government activated its national plan for excess temperatures on Thursday evening after the state meteorological agency warned that Spain was facing “one of the hottest Mays in this country in recent years”.

Aemet, the state meteorological agency, said a mass of hot, dry air is blowing in from Africa, carrying with it dust from the Sahara and “exceptionally high” daily temperatures that are between 10C and 15C above the seasonal average.

The last updates to the meteorological models confirm the extraordinary intensity of this heatwave, said Rubén del Campo, a spokesperson for Aemet.

For Spain as a whole, it could be the most intense May heatwave of the past 20 years in terms of both the maximum and minimum temperatures.

Friday and Saturday will be the hottest days in general terms and, although there will be an important drop in temperatures on Sunday across the western third of the peninsula, that could be the hottest day in parts of the eastern side of Spain and in the Balearic islands.

The forecaster said temperatures in Andalucía’s Guadalquivir valley could pass 40C on Friday and exceed 42C the next day.

Even as the heat subsides elsewhere, he added, there could be temperatures of 40C or above in the north-eastern Ebro valley – something unheard of in that area in May.

Spain recorded its highest ever temperature last August, when the mercury in the Andalucían town of Montoro reached 47.4C.

Del Campo reminded people of the “extreme risk” of forest fires in southern, central and north-eastern areas, and also told them to expect another orange calima dust cloud.

This will be an extreme episode and the risk that comes with the high temperatures will be important in many areas, he said.

Another thing to be aware of is dust in the air, which could lead to calimas in the south and east of the peninsula, with murky skies and reduced visibility.

That concentration of dust in the air could increase on Friday and Saturday across the peninsula and the Balearic islands as air comes in from north Africa carrying the dust from the Sahara. That will again cause a decline in air quality.

The Spanish government advised people to keep hydrated and wear light clothing, adding that a close eye should be kept on children, pregnant women, and older and chronically ill people.

The Saharan dust cloud is also due to blow over the UK, which experienced its hottest day of the year so far on Tuesday when temperatures in the south-east peaked at 27.5C.

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