Thursday, July 7

Extreme heat hits a Spain increasingly vulnerable to climate change and anticipates a record summer

Spain receives extreme heat stroke on Sunday and Monday. The notices indicate temperatures between 5 and 10 degrees above normal, up to 44 ºC in the south and southeast of the peninsula. Global warming of the Earth caused by the plug of gases emitted into the atmosphere exacerbates thermal peaks like this one, which are increasingly frequent in Spain.

The “brief but intense” episode of very high temperatures comes after a heat wave in North America that has killed more than 500 people. One of the main consequences of global warming is the multiplication of these waves and Spain is an example of this phenomenon.

The extremely hot days of which the AEMET has warned point to record temperatures in several points. And that record-setting effect of global warming is a consolidated trend. “During the last 30 years, the real number of daily records of high temperatures is much higher than what would be expected in a climate that was not warming up,” they describe in the Agency itself. In the last decade, the historical highs for heat in Spain have been 11 times higher than those for cold. About 5 or 6 of these peaks per course would be expected: last year there were 17. In 2017, they exceeded 20.

AEMET spokesperson, Rubén del Campo, explains that what is expected to happen this weekend is the confluence of two phenomena. On the one hand, “high pressures that cause the air to descend to the surface. There it is compressed and heated. The strong sun heats the surface and that heat is quickly transmitted to the air. There is little atmospheric movement and the hot air stays in the near surface area “. On the other hand, on Sunday, “very warm African air from the south” will enter. And on Monday that air moves to the eastern arch.

If the greenhouse effect of the gases emitted by humanity heats up the planet, Spain, due to its geographical location, is especially vulnerable to rising temperatures. This summer the entire Iberian Peninsula and the archipelagos are expected to withstand higher temperatures to the historical average. It will be one more step in the climb of milestones scientifically associated with the climate crisis.

Due to the effect of climate change, summers in Spain now last five weeks longer than in 1980 and in the last decade heat waves have almost doubled: from 12 to 21

The summer of 2020 was already the one with the highest heat stress recorded in Spain. Thermal stress is measured by temperature, humidity, wind, and solar radiation. Above normal temperatures were recorded for the sixth consecutive year. Nine of the ten warmest summers since 1965 have been marked in the 21st century.

The conclusions are that, due to the effect of climate change, summers in Spain now last five weeks longer than in 1980. But, in addition, in the last decade heat waves have almost doubled, going from 12 to 21 days. in those who have lived in a heat wave have gone from 6 to 12. Tropical nights, those in which the thermometer does not drop below 20 ºC, have multiplied. In the Mediterranean fringe there is an average of 60 per year. In Madrid, for example, they have gone from an annual average of 10 nights between 1971 and 2000 to 20 nights every year so far in the 21st century.

Human action is behind

At this juncture, research on the proliferation of extreme heat indicates that “each wave that occurs in Europe today has been more likely and more intense due to human-caused climate change,” as concluded in 2019 by a group of scientists that grouped the climate centers in the Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom and the universities of Oxford and Zurich Polytechnic.

However, to declare a heat wave, several circumstances must converge: that for at least three consecutive days the temperature considered threshold is exceeded in at least 10% of the stations in the geographical area analyzed. Not every episode of high temperatures is a heat wave, nor are all temperatures applicable. In Seville, for example, it is necessary to exceed 40ºC while in A Coruña the threshold is 29ºC and in Gijón it is 25.4ºC. With that criterion in hand, the extreme heat stroke of the beginning of July will not be included in the wave record.

Either climate change will be strongly mitigated or deaths from heat will increase in Europe, especially in the countries of the Mediterranean basin

Barcelona Institute of Global Health
– The Lancet

Despite this, “the increase in heat waves in recent years is one of the consequences with the greatest impact of rising temperatures,” explain the Agency researchers. Impact on people’s health and lives: it is estimated that between 2015 and 2020 some 1,800 people died a year due to extreme heat, according to the Carlos III Health Institute.

Extreme temperatures, above and below, severely damage health. The Barcelona Institute for Global Health has just publish a job in the magazine The Lancet in which, after reviewing the climatological and mortality data between 1998 and 2012, he concludes that either “climate change is strongly mitigated or deaths from heat will increase in Europe, especially in the countries of the Mediterranean basin”.

Scientists have observed how, as average temperatures rise, mortality from cold declines and those related to heat increase. In Spain, the so-called heat culture developed especially since the deadly wave of 2003, has reduced deaths from temperature spikes, as they have found Cristina Linares and Julio Díaz from the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics of the National School of Health of the Carlos III Institute. His research supports the multiplication of heat waves and the need to prepare to cushion their impact on health.

The overheated planet is felt in Spain. 2020 was an extremely hot year, the one with the highest overall temperature measured since 1961 together with 2017: 14.8 ºC on average, one degree above the historical average. Eight of the ten warmest years in the historical series accumulate from 2000. Seven are in the decade 2011-2020.

With current weather trends, a study by the Federal Polytechnic School of Zurich estimated in 2019 that, by 2050, 77% of cities would have a different climate than the current one, with higher temperatures typical of other cities located about 1,000 kilometers further south, closer to the tropics. At that time it was striking that Madrid was equated with Marrakech (Morocco).