Is Spain’s suffocating heatwave finally ending?

Temperatures in Spain are beginning to drop on Tuesday July 26th after extreme heat that has consumed most of the country for several weeks. Could the July heatwave finally be over?

Is Spain's suffocating heatwave finally ending?
Temperatures begin to drop in Spain. Photo: CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

Spain has been experiencing an intense heatwave recently with temperatures in much of the country well above 30°C and even into the low 40s, which has brought about wildfires, more than 1,000 deaths from heatstroke and dangerous conditions for those who work outdoors.

This is the hottest heatwave Spain has experienced since 2003.

Andalusia and Murcia have seen temperatures of up to 45°C, in Valencia the mercury rose to 42°C and Castilla-La Mancha, Aragón and Catalonia had temperatures over 40°C.

According to Spanish weather agency Aemet, it’s been among the three worst heatwaves on record in terms of duration, temperatures and extension across the Spanish territory.

Officially speaking, for scorching weather to be classified as a heatwave, the period of extreme heat must last at least three days and temperatures must exceed seasonal thresholds by 10 percent.

That means that most meteorologists have been referring to it as a ten-day heatwave, although in reality temperatures have remained extremely high for longer still beginning on July 9th (minus some brief and slight temperature drops which ‘ended’ the heatwave technically speaking).

The good news is that from Tuesday July 26th, temperatures will finally begin to drop and the north of the country will experience rainfall and cloudy skies, which should help alleviate the hot conditions in the rest of Spain.

There will be some respite from the scorching heat across most of mainland Spain, but particularly along the Mediterranean coast, the latest data from Spain’s State Meteorological Agency (AEMET) has revealed.

The only place where the temperatures are not expected to drop is the Canary Islands, where they will stay high in an archipelago renowned for relatively mild summers. 

Rainfall has been forecast for Cantabria, the Pyrenees and the north-eastern part of Catalonia, which will help to cool the temperatures in the rest of the country further and send cloud cover further south indicated AEMET.

The extreme red heat warnings will disappear, but the provinces of Seville and Córdoba will still have an orange warning, with temperatures around 40°C.

Yellow temperature warnings are also still in place in Cádiz, Granada, Jaén, Málaga and Huelva.

There could also be yellow alerts in Ávila, Albacete, Cuenca, Ciudad Real, Toledo, Guadalajara, Cáceres, Badajoz and Madrid.

Nighttime temperatures will also drop across the country, making it much easier to sleep over the next week.

However, the mercury will remain between 25°C and 27°C at night in the provincial capital cities of Almería, Barcelona, Jaén, Málaga, Murcia y Valencia.

On Wednesday July 27th, the thermometer will continue to drop in the southwest and northwest of Spain, and on Thursday July 28th some much needed precipitation due to arrive. 

What is the forecast for August?

So far it’s been hard to predict what August will bring after the extreme heat of June and July. Although temperatures are starting to drop across the country, meteorologists predict that temperatures will remain relatively high until August 15th.

However, average daily temperatures are expected to be lower than in July, which if true would certainly be something to celebrate.

As during previous years, weather agencies also predict more summer storms in the last two weeks of August, in coastal areas, in the interior and mountainous areas, which should help to cool the air temperatures further.

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Catalonia to impose water restrictions to fight drought

Catalonia's regional government has put 515 municipalities with 6.6 million inhabitants on high alert for drought. Here's what residents should know about water restrictions.

Catalonia to impose water restrictions to fight drought

The lack of rain and high autumn temperatures have meant that several reservoirs in the northeastern region are currently only at 33 percent capacity, resulting in Catalonia facing drought.

The Ter-Llobregat system, the Darnius and the Baodella reservoirs are all affected by the low water levels.

Restrictions on water consumption will be applied across 515 municipalities affecting 6.6 million inhabitants, the councillor for Acció Climàtica (Climate Action), Teresa Jordà, announced on Monday November 21st.  

“Tomorrow (Tuesday, November 22nd) we will declare a drought alert in the Ter-Llobregat basin. There will be 26 counties in alert,” she said in an interview with Ràdio Catalunya.  

According to the Catalan Drought Plan, the Ter-Llobregat system goes into alert when the reservoirs fall below 210 cubic hectometres. This is already happening and this Tuesday, November 22nd the Interdepartmental Drought Commission will meet to declare a drought alert.

The restrictions will come into force when the resolution of the director of the Catalan Water Agency (ACA) is published in the Official Gazette of the Government of Catalunya (DOGC), which is thought to be scheduled for the end of the week.

READ ALSO – IN PICTURES: Drought in Spain intensifies as Roman fort uncovered

What will change?  

When the restrictions have been approved, water consumption will have to be reduced for agricultural, livestock, industrial and recreational uses. Specifically, agricultural consumption must be restricted by 25 percent; for livestock by 10 percent; for industrial uses by 5 percent; for recreational uses involving irrigation by 30 percent and for other recreational uses by 5 percent.

For now, there won’t be any restrictions on the domestic supply of drinking water, but there will be a few limitations on the general public. 

  • You will not be allowed to fill your swimming pool. 
  • There will be restrictions on how much you can use to water your garden.  
  • Those who have a garden are advised to water it every other day and only during the cooler hours to ensure the survival of trees and plants.  
  • You are also not allowed to fill ornamental fountains or clean the streets with water from the general supply.
  • A maximum of 250 litres of water per day per person is set (a five-minute shower uses on average 100 litres).  

Up until now, there were 301 municipalities with water restrictions. These included areas around Llobregat Mitjà, Anoia Gaià, Empordà, the Serralada Transversal, Banyoles, Prades Llaberia and the Fluvià de la Muga, which have all been suffering from drought in recent weeks. Now the Ter-Llobregat system and the Darnius and the Baodella reservoirs have been added.  

The Ter-Llobregat system supplies drinking water to more than 100 municipalities in the Alt Penedès, Anoia, Baix Llobregat, Barcelonès, Garraf, Maresme, La Selva, Vallès Oriental and Vallès Occidental regions, with a population of around five millions of inhabitants.

The Drought Plan has been in place for over a year, as the Ter-Llobregat system was in pre-alert phase since February 2021.  

In these last nine months, the Catalan Agency of Water (ACA) has implemented measures to slow down the decline of water in reservoirs.  

According to Climate Action, the production of desalination plants has been boosted, which have gone from 20 percent to 90 percent of their capacity and have contributed more than 54 cubic hectometres to the system.

This contribution has made it possible to mitigate the decline of water levels in the reservoirs and avoid greater restrictions than currently seen.  

“If today we are at 34 percent of reserves, without the desalination plants we would have stood at 27 percent,” sources from Climate Action have stressed.