Poles freeze and Spaniards bask on beaches – January heat record in southern Europe

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On Monday, January 29, thermometers in Valencia indicated +29.6°C – a Spanish heat record for the first month of the year that meteorologists say heralds another heat wave. After an exceptionally hot 2023 and severe droughts in Andalusia and Catalonia, the winter “summer” is not optimistic news at all, despite the fact that thousands of people are enjoying the beautiful weather. Will the coming months bring more historic weather extremes?

Spain: January heat record in 90 locations

Spain’s national meteorological service AEMet reported that January 25 afternoon temperatures exceeded 28°C at nine measuring stations – Valencia, Alicante, Murcia and Granada. For a better perspective, it is worth adding that the average January temperatures in the former region are 10.2°C. Warmth records were recorded in 90 locations across the country, with readings on thermometers exceeding 20°C at 400 stations. In the ski resort of Puerto de Navacerrada (1760-2164 meters above sea level), where there is usually a thick snow cover in January, all slopes are currently closed, with temperatures ranging from 1°C to 10°C.

According to AEMet forecasts, the warm weather will continue into next week, with temperatures exceeding 20°C and a complete lack of precipitation. Hot air masses are coming over Spain from the south, blocking storms forming over the Atlantic.

Dramatic situation in water management and agriculture

Spain’s January heat record is a continuation of the heat waves that hit the country last year. In April, temperatures reached 38.8 degrees Celsius at the Cordoba airport, and satellite images revealed that Andalusia’s famous Fuente de Piedra salt lake had completely dried up. Three months later, another record was set: in some areas of the Extremadura region, surface temperatures of 60°C were recorded.

The hot weather and lack of rainfall are exacerbating an already tense situation in Catalonia and Andalusia, which have been in a severe drought for the past three years. At a press conference on January 3, the Catalan government announced that water resources for Barcelona and Girona remain at a drastically low 17 percent, and if they drop by another 1 percent, which is almost certain with the current weather forecast, a state of emergency will be declared in the region.

Equally dramatic news is coming from Andalusia, where radical measures have been announced to save water. According to regional president Juanma Moreno, Seville, Málaga and Córdoba would need heavy rains for at least 30 days in a row to survive the summer. Meanwhile, water bills for citizens in southern Spain have already risen, and filling household pools and watering public parks has been banned. The prices of fruits and vegetables are also rising due to water shortages in agriculture.

Winter heat in other countries

The wave of hot air has not missed other countries in southern Europe either. Portugal’s Institute of the Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA) reported temperatures exceeding the regional average by 8-9°C. In France, the heat record was recorded, among others. in Montpellier, Nîmes, and Arles, where temperatures exceeded 21°C, according to Météo-France. The French meteorological service also reports that in the Pyrénées-Orientales region, this year’s soil moisture levels are the lowest recorded in January.

Heat records are also being observed outside Europe. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology on Monday, January 29. has issued a warning of extreme heat expected in regions of Western Australia, the Northern Territories and Queensland. A week earlier, temperatures near 50°C were recorded in the south of the country. Reports of a wave of unexpected heat are also coming from South Africa, Argentina and other countries.

Climate change is not the only cause of hot weather in January. According to experts at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the record-breaking hot year of 2023 was also influenced by El Niño current activity. Warmer surface waters in the Pacific Ocean have intensified the overall rise in global temperature, bringing with it disastrous consequences for societies and the global economy.

El Niño is expected to maintain its effect until at least April 2024, which carries the risk of further heat waves in various parts of the world. According to NOAA experts, it can already be predicted with 99 percent probability that this year will be one of the five warmest in modern history. Extreme temperatures, droughts and fires are likely to be repeated in the following months.