Temperatures in parts of southern Spain are expected to exceed 42C (107F) on Saturday as a heat wave of “extraordinary intensity” brings dusty skies, an increased risk of forest fires and conditions more generally seen in mid-summer than in mid-May.
The Spanish government activated its national plan against excessive temperatures on Thursday evening after the state weather agency, Aemet, warned that Spain was facing “one of the hottest Mays in this country these last years”.
Aemet said a mass of hot, dry air is blowing in from Africa, bringing with it dust from the Sahara and “unusually high” daily temperatures that are between 10°C and 15°C above the seasonal average.
“The latest weather model updates confirm the extraordinary intensity of this heat wave,” said Rubén del Campo, spokesperson for Aemet.
“For Spain as a whole, this could be the most intense May heatwave in 20 years in terms of maximum and minimum temperatures. Friday and Saturday will be the hottest days in general terms and, although “If there is a significant drop in temperatures on Sunday in the western third of the peninsula, it could be the hottest day in parts of eastern Spain and the Balearic Islands.”
The forecaster said temperatures in Andalusia’s Guadalquivir Valley could top 40C on Friday and top 42C the next day. Even if the heat subsides elsewhere, he added, there could be temperatures of 40C or more in the northeast of the Ebro Valley – “something unheard of in this area in May “.
Spain recorded its highest temperature on record last August, when the mercury in the Andalusian town of Montoro hit 47.4C.
Del Campo reminded people of the ‘extreme risk’ of wildfires in southern, central and northeast regions, and also told them to expect another orange calima cloud of dust.
“It will be an extreme episode and the risk from high temperatures will be significant in many areas,” he said.
“Another thing to be aware of is the dust in the air, which could lead to calimas in the south and east of the peninsula, with cloudy skies and reduced visibility. This concentration of dust in the The air could increase on Friday and Saturday across the peninsula and the Balearic Islands as air arrives from North Africa carrying dust from the Sahara.This will again lead to lower air quality.
The Spanish government has advised people to stay hydrated and wear light clothing, adding that children, pregnant women and the elderly and chronically ill should be watched closely.
The Saharan dust cloud is also expected 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.
Spring heat records have also been broken in France as the country enters its 38th straight day of above normal temperatures, with parts of the south already above 33C and some models predicting temperatures will rise locally to 37C. , even 39 ° C by the end of the week. , around 17C warmer than the seasonal average.
The southern cities of Albi, Toulouse and Montelimar all matched or exceeded their previous May records, registering 33.7C, 33.4C and 33.8C respectively on Wednesday, while even La Hague in the northwest of the Normandy hit 27C, breaking a May record dating back to 1922.
In Paris, the nighttime temperature from Wednesday to Thursday did not drop below 20C, the first time this has happened so early in the year in a century and a half since records began in the capital. At 3am, the mercury was still close to 22C.
The heatwave is expected to continue in southern France until at least Sunday and possibly Monday, Météo France said, adding: “This is an exceptional period of high temperatures in terms of the start of the year , last, and what part of the country it covers.
The state forecaster said it was now “highly likely” to be the hottest May on record, with average temperatures predicted at least 3C above normal across the board. the month, and locally much more. In 2011, the hottest May on record so far, average temperatures were only 1.8°C above normal.
Francois Jobard, a Météo France forecaster, said France had not experienced a heat wave in May “since national figures began to be compiled in 1947. The hottest day in May has always remained well below 25.3°C. In fact, this temperature has never yet been reached in France before June 20.
Water use has already been restricted in 16 of the departments (regions), 22 of which – mostly in the southeast and southwest – are considered “very likely” to experience severe drought by the end of summer. Worrying ozone levels were also recorded in the Rhone Valley this week, authorities said.
Météo France said such episodes of extreme heat are likely to become longer and more severe, start earlier and recur more frequently as global warming progresses – although it added that there was no indication this year that the exceptionally warm spring heralded a record warm summer. .
Earlier this week, the UK Met Office said the odds of the recent record-breaking heatwave that pushed temperatures in parts of India and Pakistan to 51C had been made more than 100 times more likely in because of the climate crisis.