Are the high temperatures experienced last week all over Spain normal in summer? According to the data, no. They are not normal. The heat wave that was experienced the Peninsula and the Canary Islands last week has left temperature records in more than half of the country. As explained from the State Meteorological Agency (Aemet), it has been “an exceptionally extensive episode” – has affected 30 provinces – “and intense”, is placed, provisionally, as “the most intense lived in Spain in terms of temperatures”, tied with that of June 2019.
Between 11 and 16 August, up to 29 provinces recorded one of the ten warmest days in its history. This is clear from the records of maximum temperatures compiled by the Aemet since 1950 (or since the first year available) and analyzed by elDiario.es. The data for each province correspond to the weather station located in the capital of each of them that has current observations and the oldest historical series or, in its absence, another station in the province with the same characteristics. See methodology.
The agency’s meteorologists warned that the continued irruption of “a mass of very warm air from North Africa, along with the strong sunshine typical of these dates” would lead to “very high temperatures” to reach “values above normal summer” in much of the Peninsula and the Balearic Islands, except the Cantabrian area. And so it was. The climatologist of the Aemet, Cesar Rodriguez Ballesteros, explained in statements to EFE that “the past 14 and August 13, within this heat wave, have been respectively the second and third warmest recorded in the whole of Spain since 1941.
Specifically, during this last heat wave, in Albacete, Avila, Caceres, Cuenca, Granada, Murcia, Navarra, Segovia, Soria, Teruel and Toledo has reached the highest temperature since records exist. In Cordoba and Madrid have equaled the existing historical records. In the Canary Islands the wave has continued during this week.
Evolution of the ten hottest days in each provgo to
Days in which the ten highest maximum temperatures have been recorded in each province distributed according to the year. The squares 🟥 show the records that have been recorded during the last heat wave.
It has not been particularly long-lasting, especially if we compare it with the 26 consecutive days of heat wave in 2015, the longest so far. But the six days in which the first wave of 2021 has taken place have given for multiple thermal milestones. Although the episode of high temperatures began on Wednesday, were Friday 13 and Saturday 14 were the days in which most records were broken. On Saturday there were six provinces that reached its highest maximum to date and 21 recorded that day one of the ten highest temperatures in its history.
In summer it is normal to be hot and we can’t talk about a wave when the temperatures, even if they are high or even very high, are relatively usual in the summer period. But we can say it when it comes to episodes of abnormally high temperatures, which are maintained for several days and affect an important part of our geography.
This is precisely what happened between 11 and 16 August. In a third of the stations included in this analysis, maximum temperatures up to 10 degrees above what would be usual for them during the month of August were recorded. The most anomalous temperature was recorded in Navarre: on Saturday it reached 41.6 ºC, up to 13 degrees above the normal historical average maximum. In Murcia it was 12 degrees above. In Granada, Jaén, Álava and La Rioja the thermometer rose 11 degrees higher than usual.
During the recent #OlaDeCalor it has been said that “it is normal to be hot in summer in Spain”, implying that it was not so much.
Well yes: although it is normal summer heat in our country, this episode and the trend observed in recent years are not so much.
Rubén del Campo (@Rub_dc) August 19, 2021
“Although it is normal summer heat in our country, this episode and the trend observed in recent years are not so much,” published the expert of the Aemet, Rubén del Campo, in his Twitter account. One of the main consequences of global warming is the multiplication of these waves and Spain is an example of this phenomenon. The country experienced twice as many heat waves between 2011 and 2020 than in previous decades. Also almost half of the highest temperatures in each province have been reached during the last decade and two thirds are concentrated from 2000, as you can seer in the following table.
The 10 warmest days in Toledo A Coruña Álava Albacete Alicante Almería Asturias Ávila Badajoz Baleares Barcelona Bizkaia Burgos Cáceres Cádiz Cantabria Castellón Ceuta Ciudad Real Córdoba Cuenca Gipuzkoa Girona Granada Guadalajara Huelva Huesca Jaén La Rioja Las Palmas León Lleida Lugo Madrid Málaga Melilla Murcia Navarra Ourense Palencia Pontevedra S.C. de Tfe. Salamanca Segovia Seville Soria Soria Tarragona Teruel Valencia Valladolid Zamora Zaragoza
The 46.9ºC reached at Cordoba airport on Saturday makes it the capital that has recorded the highest temperature during this heat wave. It is followed by Murcia (46.2 ºC), Granada (46 ºC) and again Cordoba (45.9 ºC, on Friday). These four records are among the ten highest maximums in provincial capitals since 1950.
An even higher temperature was reached in Montoro (Córdoba), a station that is outside this analysis. With a maximum of 47.4 ºC, it is the record value in the network of modern automatic stations. As del Campo says, although “it is true that records higher than this are kept” -even a cover that has gone viral where it is mentioned that 50 ºC had been reached somewhere in La Mancha, it is “old data and without the current rigorous input filters”.
The reality is that “even assuming those records were valid, there is one thing that is overwhelmingly undeniable: the trend. Summers in Spain are now hotter than before, and heat waves are more frequent,” the expert adds.
In the following graph you can see the evolution of maximum temperatures in each province this year, compared to the historical average. It is also found, along with other maps and graphs, in the monitoring tool of daily temperatures in all provinces, where during this summer in elDiario.es compare the maximum with its historical average.
The maximum temperatures in
Maximums recorded daily in 2021, compared with the average of the maximums from 1981 to 2010. In the dark gray band are 90% of the maximum temperatures of the historical series recorded that day of the year, and the extremes show the highest and lowest maximum temperature reached anteriorly on the same day of the year
For this article we have used the historical data of maximum temperatures collected by the State Meteorological Agency (AEMET) since 1950 (or since the first available year), extracted from its API and analyzed by elDiario.es.
The data for each province correspond to the weather station located in the capital of each province that has current observations and the oldest historical series. In its absence, another station in the province with the same characteristics has been used (for example, the data for Palencia correspond to the Autilla del Pino station).
In the cases of Cantabria, Gipuzkoa and Álava the data of the last 24h do not come from the same station as the historical data used for that province, since there is no station that shares all the data. However, they are stations located a few meters away from each other at the airports of these provinces. The temperatures collected by both do not always coincide, due to the conditions of the environment where they are located, but the variation is of a few tenths of a degree and that is why they have been used for the comparison.
As a reference indicator for the “normal temperature”, the average of the maximum temperatures between 1981 and 2010 is used, the time period considered by the Aemet to “define the climatic characteristics of a given area”. As summer, the dates from 1 June to 31 August are considered, following the indications of the Aemet.