Spain, Portugal smash April temperature records

Mainland Spain and Portugal have broken temperature records for April, officials said on Friday, as both countries wilt in an unusually early heatwave that has increased the risk of wildfires.

The mercury reached 38.8 degrees Celsius (101.8 degrees Fahrenheit) at the airport in Spain's southern city of Córdoba on Thursday, surpassing the previous record of 38.6 degrees Celsius in the eastern city of Elche, according to the national weather office AEMET.

This "provisional data" must still be confirmed, a process that can take several days, a spokesperson for the agency said.

The highest temperature for all of Spain in the month of April, however, was recorded in 2013 in the Canary Islands off the northwest coast of Africa when the mercury reached 40.2 degrees Celsius.

In neighboring Portugal, temperatures in the central town of Mora reached 36.9 degrees Celsius on Thursday, surpassing the record of 36 degrees Celsius set in April 1945 in the northeastern town of Pinhão, according to the weather agency IPMA.

While temperatures began to decrease in Portugal on Friday, the scorching heat persisted in much of Spain with the mercury reaching 36 degrees Celsius in Córdoba.

The unusually early heatwave has been driven by a mass of very hot and dry air coming from Africa, coupled with a slow-moving weather system. A high-pressure weather system plus clear skies over the Iberian Peninsula are allowing more sunshine to reach the ground, which is already so dry that it cannot evaporate the heat.

Dry solid clods are seen at the Sau water reservoir in Spain, April 27, 2023. /CFP
Dry solid clods are seen at the Sau water reservoir in Spain, April 27, 2023. /CFP

Dry solid clods are seen at the Sau water reservoir in Spain, April 27, 2023. /CFP

The scorching temperatures have prompted warnings about the high risk of wildfires and worsened drought conditions that have already led some farmers in Spain to not sow seeds this year.

The Spanish government said it would launch its forest fire monitoring campaign on Friday, a month and a half earlier than usual due to the early arrival of scorching temperatures.

This will involve adding reinforcements to local firefighting teams and the "continuous monitoring" of forest fires across the country, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

Blazes have already ravaged some 54,000 hectares of land so far this year in Spain, compared with just over 17,000 hectares during the same time in 2022, according to the European Forest Fire Information System.

Last year, Spain experienced its hottest year since records began, with UN figures suggesting nearly 75 percent of its land is susceptible to desertification due to climate change.

Water reservoirs are at half their capacity nationally and the COAG farmers' union says 60 percent of farmland is "suffocating" from lack of rainfall.

Spain is the world's largest exporter of olive oil and a key source of fruits and vegetables in Europe.

Experts say climate change driven by human activity is boosting the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, droughts and wildfires.

(Cover images via CFP)

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Source(s): AFP

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