Spain braced for record April temperatures of 39C as extreme heat wreaks havoc

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Spain’s government has advised people to take extra care as the drought-stricken country braces for record temperatures that could result in unprecedented April temperatures of 39C (102F) in parts of Andalusia on Friday.

This week’s unusually high spring temperatures – caused by a very hot air mass from northern Africa traveling across the Iberian peninsula and the Balearic Islands – have already prompted Madrid’s regional government to approve a plan to help hospitals, health centers and schools to fight, and order that public swimming pools open a month earlier than usual.

In Seville, where temperatures were expected to hit 36C on Thursday, police were trying to determine whether a horse pulling a tourist carriage had died of heat stroke.

Related: Weather tracker: heat in Spain could break April temperature record

The central government has reminded citizens to stay hydrated and carry out regular checks on vulnerable people such as babies, children and the elderly, as the heat episode reaches its peak on Thursday and Friday.

According to Rubén del Campo, spokesman for Spain’s state meteorological agency, Aemet, Spain has seen temperatures between 7C and 11C above average for this time of year in the past few days. He said temperatures in the Andalusian provinces of Seville and Córdoba could reach 39C on Friday.

April temperature records have already been broken at Córdoba airport – where the mercury hit 35.1C earlier this week, surpassing the high of 34C recorded in April 2017 – and at Jerez airport, where the temperature hit 35C the April record of 33.6C set in 1997.

Del Campo said April 2023 was on track to be the warmest April on record.

“Confirmation is still pending, but this high temperature episode is likely to be the warmest April on the Iberian peninsula since records began – at least since 1950,” he said.

“When it comes to the relationship between this type of weather and climate change, we know that very high temperatures are becoming more frequent and more intense, and this intense and extreme heat is coming earlier. Although each episode needs to be analyzed individually and in detail, this episode fits with what is happening due to climate change.”

A woman fills bottles with drinking water from a truck in Alcaracejos, Spain, on April 27 after the local reservoir almost dried up. Photo: Reuters

Del Campo also noted that this month’s rainfall was well below average; terrible news for a country that has been in drought since January last year.

He said 12 liters per square meter of rain fell in Spain between April 1 and April 23 – just 25% of normal. As things currently stand, April 1995 could be overtaken this April – when 23 liters per square meter of rain fell – as the driest on record.

Although temperatures are predicted to come down over the weekend, they could start climbing again from next Tuesday, Del Campo added.

In May last year, temperatures in parts of Spain exceeded 40C as a hot, dry air mass brought temperatures between 10C and 15C above the seasonal average and more like high summer. This was followed by two heat waves in June and July together with forest fires that burned through hundreds of thousands of hectares of land across Spain.

A recent EU report concluded that the climate crisis had “alarming” impacts in Europe last year, with heat waves killing more than 20,000 people and drought ravaging crops.

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