Spain in grip of second earliest heatwave on record

Spain was on Monday already in the grips of a heatwave expected to reach "extreme" levels, and France is bracing for one too, as meteorologists blame the unusually high seasonal temperatures on global warming.

Spain in grip of second earliest heatwave on record
A construction worker drinks water to fight the scorching heat during a heatwave in Seville on June 13, 2022. (Photo by CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP)

The “unusual” temperatures for the time of year follow the hottest May in at least 100 years in Spain, Ruben del Campo, spokesman for the Spanish Meteorological Agency (Aemet) said.

He told AFP that the current heatwave would bring “extreme temperatures” and “could last until the end of the week”.

The mercury will rise above 40 degrees Celsius (around 104 degrees Fahrenheit) in the day in many Spanish towns and remain high at night, above 20 to 22 degrees, he said.

According to Spain’s national weather agency, the earliest heatwave on record was recorded on June 11th 1981, making the current episode of soporific heat the second earliest heatwave on record in Spain as it began on Sunday June 12th 2022.

There was a period of extreme heat recorded in May in Spain, but in order for meteorologists to officially consider scorching weather to be una ola de calor (a heatwave) it must last at least three days and temperatures must exceed seasonal thresholds by 10 percent.

The heatwave is also set to hit other parts of Europe, such as France, in the next few days, del Campo warned.

France’s weather service said the heatwave would hit southern regions from Tuesday night, worsening a drought across much of the country that is threatening farm harvests.

From Wednesday, much of France will be sweltering in temperatures that could reach 38 or even 40 degrees C — “extremely early” for the season — forecaster Frederic Nathan of Meteo-France told AFP.

Water use restrictions are already in place in 35 departments — around a third of the country — and utilities are urging farmers, factories and public service providers to show “restraint” to avoid further depletions of water tables.

People cool off to fight the scorching heat during a heatwave in Seville on June 13th 2022. (Photo by CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP)

‘Not normal’

Spain has experienced four episodes of extreme temperatures in the last 10 months.

A heatwave last August set a new record, with the temperature hitting 47.4 degrees C in the southern city of Montoro.

“This extreme heat is not normal at this time during the spring,” del Campo said, attributing it to global warming.

Temperatures were also “exceptionally high” between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

According to Aemet forecasts, temperatures could reach 43 degrees C in the southern region of Andalusia, especially the cities of Cordoba or Seville, in the next few days.

Since the pre-industrial era, Spain has seen temperatures rise by 1.7 degrees C on average, del Campo said.

Not only have temperatures become more extreme, he said, but periods of heat have become more frequent.

Summers in Spain, he added, “are a bit hotter every year and getting longer and longer. A summer lasts one month longer than in the 1980s.”

Apart from the consequences on human health, he warned of the environmental impact, with a high risk of drought and water supply problems, and more fires.

Recent science has shown beyond any doubt that climate change has already increased the frequency and intensity of heatwaves, and that worse is on the horizon no matter how quickly humanity draws down carbon pollution.

Earth has already warmed 1.1 degrees C since pre-industrial times.

The decade from 2011 to 2020 was the warmest on record, and the last six years the hottest ever registered.

READ ALSO: Where are the hottest places in Spain?

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Will Spain’s third heatwave be as bad as the last one?

Spain has already faced two scorching heatwaves so far this spring and summer, but with meteorologists predicting a possible third in the coming days, could it be as bad as July's?

Will Spain's third heatwave be as bad as the last one?

As Spain moves into August, the stifling temperatures look set to stay.

Record temperatures have caused forest fires across the country, killed people by the hundreds, forced large swathes of the population to stay inside all day in order escape the heat, and ‘tropical nights’ have made sleeping incredibly uncomfortable.

READ ALSO: Are Spain’s wildfires a risk to people’s health?

But will these temperatures continue throughout August?

With unnaturally warm temperatures continuing over the last weekend in July, experts are now considering whether the duration and intensity of the latest round of scorching weather will be enough to qualify as Spain’s third official heatwave (ola de calor) of the summer and how long it will last.

READ ALSO: How much does it cost to have air-conditioning at home in Spain?

With high temperatures predicted for the first week of August, if they continue further into the month, it is likely AEMET (Spain’s state meteorological agency) will declare a third heatwave, although, spokesman Rubén del Campo says it is looking likely to be “less intense and extreme than the previous two”.

For meteorologists to officially consider scorching weather to be a heatwave, the period of extreme heat must last at least three days and temperatures must exceed seasonal thresholds by 10 percent.

“It is possible that from last Sunday July 31st until at least Wednesday August 3rd or Thursday 4th, the thresholds of intensity, persistence and extension necessary to be able to catalog this episode as a heat wave will be exceeded,” the meteorologist added.


According to AEMET forecasts, temperatures climbed on Monday August 2nd and Tuesday 3rd but will begin to decrease from Thursday.

High temperatures could continue for most of week, however. “In large areas of the interior of the northern half,” del Campo said, “and also in points in the centre and south, temperatures will be between 5C and 10C above normal for this time of year.”

One thing that won’t change, however, regardless of whether AEMET declares the heat an official heatwave, is the sweltering night temperatures. 

August temperature forecasts across Spain, showing the areas expected to be ‘warmer than normal’ (más cálido de lo normal), ‘slightly warmer than normal’ (ligeramente más cálido de lo normal) ‘quite a bit warmer than normal’ (bastante más cálido de lo normal) and ‘much warmer than normal’ (mucho más cálido de lo normal). Map:

The phenomenon of ‘tropical nights’, when temperatures stay above 20C during the night, have now become the norm up and down the Mediterranean coast and southern half of the country.

In some cases, temperatures through the night have hovered around 25C, making it very difficult to sleep or save on electricity bills.

READ ALSO: Ceiling fan vs air con in Spain: Which offers the better price-coolness ratio?

Spain’s previous heatwaves in 2022

The first heatwave began early this year, back on June 11th, and lasted almost a full week (officially until June 18th) and was the earliest heatwave Spain had suffered in almost fifty years, affecting 38 provinces across the country.

Incredibly, in places in southern Spain like Jaén, a staggering 44.5C was recorded on June 17th – far earlier than expected and is normal.
In mid-July, however, the second heatwave was much more intense – the third longest in Spanish history and the most severe.
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Temperature surpassing 40C spread across the country, affecting even the northernmost areas such as Galicia and Asturias, with the mercury touching 45C in the south, and killing over a thousand people.