It’s understandable if many in Spain believe that this week is the midst of the summer.
The nation is preparing for its warmest April day ever as a heat wave moves from Africa to Europe, with a predicted high of 40°C.
Following the driest March in 20 years, the temperature is predicted to rise to levels that are typically only experienced in July.
Spanish citizens were advised to brace themselves for “exceptionally high temperatures for this time of year,” according to the State Meteorological Agency of Spain, often known as AEMET.
The agency said on Sunday that the heat wave will begin by marching towards the Iberian Peninsula on Monday and today, peaking by Thursday and Friday.
Madrid, Andalusia, Murcia and Aragón will all be hard hit by the spring heatwave, the country’s weather agency said.
People living in the Guadalquivir Valley near the Córdoba province could see 40°C – the first time the temperature has been recorded in April.
While in Seville, the capital city of the southern Iberian community of Andalucía, an extreme temperature of 37°C is expected.
Zaragoza in northeastern Spain could see thermometers soar to 35°C this week.
Spain’s capital, Madrid, won’t be spared, with 33°C expected in the region.
The night will offer people little respite, AEMET added. In Andalusia, nighttime temperatures will stubbornly remain in ‘tropical’ heights at 20°C.
Some Spanish farmers, wary of the heat and increasing lack of water, haven’t planted crops for weeks, while civil police warn of a ‘high risk’ of wildfires.
The nation’s water reserves have become cracked and scorched in the heat, plunging the southwest European country into a long-term drought.
Reservoirs are around 15% below average levels (some have shrunk by 26%) which is fuelling fears of another wild-fire-filled summer ahead.
Agriculture, a lifeline of Spain’s economy, is feeling the heat, agriculture minister Luis Planas said last week, adding: ‘We are in a difficult moment.’
The country’s top farmers’ union, COAG, said on April 17 that 60% of farmland has been ‘suffocated’ by the lack of rainfall.
‘Irreversible damage has been done to more than 3.5 million hectares of rainfed cereals,’ the union said. Losses have been seen in crops such as nuts and wheat.
A pasture in Badajoz, western Spain, is so dry that cattle have next to no grass to eat or water to drink.
‘There is a lot of uncertainty because although there is more water available than last year, the land is much drier,’ COAG added.
It comes after a heatwave caused fires to rage in France and Spain before sending mercury sky-high in the UK last year.
The heat wave was the upshot of planet-warming pollution causing wind patterns to change and the ‘Azores High’ to become even larger.
This high-pressure system in the north Atlantic has long been behind the summer’s balmy heat – but the last few years have been especially blistering.
So much so that the Met Office issued its first red warning for exceptional heat in 2022.
And the dry zone is only getting larger and larger each year amid climate change, a study published in Nature Geoscience found.
This is all throwing Europe’s typically moderate temperatures topsy-turvy, with winter rainfall rates decreasing by the decade, leading to droughts.
Scientists expect a further 10–20% drop in winter rainfall by 2100, a daunting prospect for agricultural countries like Spain.