(Seville) The exceptionally early heat wave experienced by Spain peaked from Thursday, a situation that worries the authorities in this country on the front line of global warming in Europe.
“It is very likely that the peak of this episode will be reached on Thursday and Friday,” said the Spanish meteorological agency (Aemet), which referred to “maximums closer to those of early July and generalized records for a month of ‘april “.
Around 11 a.m. (Eastern time), the thermometer had already risen to 38.7 ° C in Cordoba (south) and 37.8 ° C in the province of Seville, according to readings from Aemet, which revised its forecast slightly lower after mentioning 40°C at the start of the week.
In Seville, where fans and umbrellas are out, front-line workers are already harassed by the hot weather.
“It’s extremely hot, we’re looking for shade and water all the time,” says Juan Benito, a 33-year-old waiter in the Andalusian capital.
“By its intensity and its early nature”, the episode observed since Monday “falls within the framework of the consequences of climate change”, underlined Ruben Del Campo, spokesperson for Aemet, for whom “it is possible that ‘April 2023 […] is one of the two warmest Aprils’ since records exist.
In Valence (east), while some tourists were delighted to be able to go to the beach, residents on the contrary showed their concern. Ramón Cabanyal, 66, explained that he wanted to “make (his) entourage aware that what we are going through is something that must be stopped. »
In this context, the Spanish authorities are forced to adapt and the Ministry of Health has proposed to the regions, with broad powers, to bring forward the activation of their heat plan to May 15, previously set for June 1.
These plans determine the different levels of risk for the population, particularly vulnerable, depending on the temperatures.
That of Madrid has already announced on Wednesday the activation of its plan which notably provides for the possibility of adapting school timetables, which is usually done from June.
Episodes of exceptionally high temperatures have multiplied in recent years in Spain, a European country on the front line with nearly 75% of its territory at risk of desertification according to the UN.
The country thus experienced its hottest year on record last year, with several heat waves starting in May, according to Aemet.
According to a study by the Polytechnic University of Catalonia published on Tuesday, the number of days of the year marked by summer temperatures fell in Spain from 90 to 145 between 1971 and 2022.
Also over this period, episodes of daytime heat waves multiplied by seven and nighttime ones by nearly 11, while the temperature increased by an average of 3.54°C in the main Spanish cities.
Beyond the temperatures, Spain, which exports a large part of its agricultural production to the rest of Europe, is facing a catastrophic drought which worries farmers and authorities.
According to Coag, the main farmers’ union, 60% of Spanish farmland is currently “choked” by the lack of rainfall.
Dry soils and very high temperatures constitute an explosive cocktail that increases the risk of fire.
Most of the territory was therefore placed on Thursday on alert for “very high” or “extreme” risk of fires by the Aemet while the Ministry of the Interior convened an exceptional coordination meeting with the regions on this subject. Friday.
Spain is already on a record for burned areas since the start of the year, with more than 54,000 hectares compared to 17,126 hectares over the same period of 2022, a record year for fires, according to the System European Forest Fire Information System (Effis)
Neighboring Portugal is also affected by this early heat wave. Temperatures, which are “10 to 15 degrees Celsius above normal”, could reach 37 degrees there on Thursday after a maximum of 35.4 degrees reached Wednesday in the south of the country, according to the National Meteorological Institute.