Spain set to sizzle in May heatwave this week

The sweltering summer weather has already arrived in Spain this week, and it's only May. Get ready because by Thursday, much of the country will experience temperatures in the mid-thirties.

Benidorm beach
First 40°C temperatures of the year to hit Spain this week. Photo: JOSE JORDAN / STR / AFP

Temperatures this week (May 16th to 22nd) are set to be more like those typically seen in June and July with highs in much of the country between 5°C and 15°C degrees above normal.

The State Meteorological Agency (Aemet) has warned that temperatures are going to be “unusually high” in the coming days. Expect “Very high temperatures which will exceed 35°C in many parts of the Peninsula and the Balearic Islands,” they said, indicating that Spain could even register its first 40°C of the year.

Although it is not the first time Spain has seen 40°C degrees so early in the year, AEMET fears that this will be “the worst heatwave in May in the last 20 years”. 

During this week there will be “a progressive and general rise in temperatures on the Peninsula and the Balearic Islands, which will take the thermometers to mid-summer values, with heat both during the day and at night,” warns Rubén del Campo, spokesman for AEMET.

He also noted that much of Spain would experiences “tropical nights” when the nighttime temperatures will hover around 20°C.

Which places will be the hottest in the country?

This Tuesday, temperatures will begin to rise into the low 30s in some parts of the country. AEMET predicts highs of 32°C in Cordoba, 31°C in Granada and 33°C in Zaragoza.

But it’s on Wednesday that the meteorological agency predicts that the heatwave will really hit with temperatures reaching 38°C in Córdoba and 36°C in Zaragoza, Granada, and Lleida – the hottest places in the country. Other places set to sizzle on Wednesday are Toledo and Seville both with a high of 35°C, as well as Madrid, Murcia and Cáceres, all with a high of 33°C.

Temperatures by Friday May 20th. Source: AEMET

And temperatures are set to soar even higher on Thursday with the majority of the central regions experiencing temperatures in the mid to high 30s. The hottest place on Thursday will again be Córdoba, this time reaching a scorching 40°C, followed closely by Seville and Granada both with 38°C. 

The Balearic Islands are also predicted to see temperatures around 32-34°C.

By Friday and the weekend, there will be no respite from the heat as temperatures in the high 30s and low 40s will be experienced in much of inland Andalusia, Castilla-La Mancha and Extremadura. Madrid is also expected to reach 38°C by the weekend.

Those looking to escape the intense heat should head to the likes of Galicia, Asturias and Cantabria in the north or hop over to the Canary Islands, where temperatures are likely to hover around the comfortable low to mid-20s.

READ ALSO: Where are the hottest places in Spain?

Wildfire risk

AEMET has also warned that the hot weather will increase the risk of wildfires particularly in southern Galicia, Andalusia, Castilla y León and Extremadura, where the agency has asked people to take extreme precautions.

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Europe swelters under record-breaking heatwave

Forest fires are raging, animals are suffering and humans are sweating as Europe grapples with one of the most intense heatwaves ever recorded.

Europe swelters under record-breaking heatwave

France and other western European nations on Saturday sweltered under a blistering June heatwave that has sparked forest fires and concerns that such early summer blasts of hot weather will now become the norm.

The weather on Saturday was the peak of a June heatwave that is in line with scientists’ predictions that such phenomena will now strike earlier in the year thanks to global warming.

The French southwestern town of Biarritz, one of the country’s most sought-after seaside resorts, saw its highest all time temperature Saturday of 41 degrees, state forecaster Meteo France said.

Queues of hundreds of people and traffic jams formed outside aquatic leisure parks in France, with people seeing water as the only refuge from the devastating heat.

With the River Seine off limits to bathing, scorched Parisians took refuge in the city’s fountains.   

Temperatures in France could reach as high as 42C in some areas on Saturday, Meteo France said, adding that June records had already been beaten in 11 areas on Friday.

“This is the earliest heatwave ever recorded in France” since 1947, said Matthieu Sorel, a climatologist at Meteo France.

With “many monthly or even all-time temperature records likely to be beaten in several regions,” he called the weather a “marker of climate change”.

Forest fires rage

In a major incident in France, a fire triggered by the firing of an artillery shell in military training in the Var region of southern France was burning some 200 hectares (495 acres) of vegetation, local authorities said.

“There is no threat to anyone except 2,500 sheep who are being evacuated and taken to safety,” said local fire brigade chief Olivier Pecot.

The fire came from the Canjeurs military camp, the biggest such training site in Western Europe. Fire services’ work was impeded by the presence of non-exploded munitions in the deserted area but four Canadair plans have been deployed to water bomb the fires.

Farmers in the country are having to adapt.

Daniel Toffaloni, a 60-year-old farmer near the southern city of Perpignan, now only works from “daybreak until 11.30am” and in the evening, as temperatures in his tomato greenhouses reach a sizzling 55 degrees C.

Forest fires in Spain on Saturday had burned nearly 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres) of land in the north-west Sierra de la Culebra region.

The flames forced several hundred people from their homes, and 14 villages were evacuated.

Some residents were able to return on Saturday morning, but regional authorities warned the fire “remains active”.

Firefighters were still battling blazes in several other regions, including woodlands in Catalonia.

Temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) were forecast in parts of the country on Saturday — with highs of 43 degrees C expected in the north-eastern city of Zaragoza.

There have also been fires in Germany, where temperatures topped 40C on Saturday. A blaze in the Brandenburg region around Berlin had spread over about 60 hectares by Friday evening.

Foretaste of future

Dutch authorities said they expect Saturday to be the hottest day of the year so far.

The UK recorded its hottest day of the year on Friday, with temperatures reaching over 30 degrees C in the early afternoon, meteorologists said.

“I think at the moment people are just enjoying it being hot but if it gets any hotter than this, which I think it is meant to, then that’s a concern,” said Claire Moran, an editor in London.

Several towns in northern Italy have announced water rationing and the Lombardy region may declare a state of emergency as a record drought threatens harvests.

Italy’s dairy cows were putting out 10 percent less milk, the main agricultural association, Coldiretti, said Saturday.

With temperatures far above the cows’ “ideal climate” of 22-24C, animals were drinking up to 140 litres of water per day, double their normal intake, and producing less due to stress, it said.

Experts warned the high temperatures were caused by worrying climate change trends.

“As a result of climate change, heatwaves are starting earlier,” said Clare Nullis, a spokeswoman for the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva.

“What we’re witnessing today is unfortunately a foretaste of the future” if concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continue to rise and push global warming towards 2 degrees C from pre-industrial levels, she added.