SEVILLE – An unusually early heatwave in drought-hit Spain is set to peak on Thursday and Friday, with temperatures expected to break April records in the south of the country.
Experts have warned of the high risk of wildfires, and farmers have warned of the catastrophic effect it is having on their crops.
Since Monday, Spain has been enveloped by a mass of warm, dry air from North Africa that has driven up temperatures to “levels normally seen in summer and exceptionally high for this time of year,” said Spain’s state weather agency Aemet.
“It’s highly likely (the heatwave) will peak on Thursday and Friday,” it added, acknowledging many temperature records had already been beaten on Wednesday.
On Thursday, the mercury rose above 34 deg C in most of the southern Andalusia region, hitting 38.7 deg C in Cordoba, it said.
Scorching temperatures have prompted warnings about the high risk of wildfires. Spain has already seen fire ravage 54,000ha of land so far in 2023, compared with 17,000ha in the same period in 2022.
Experts say parts of the country are the driest in a thousand years, with a prolonged drought depleting reservoirs to half their normal capacity, figures show.
On Wednesday, at least three areas around the southern cities of Seville and Huelva recorded temperatures of 37 deg C.
Schools adapt schedules
This could be Spain’s hottest April on record, said Ruben del Campo, spokesman for Aemet.
“Due to its intensity and early character, this episode fits with what we are observing climate change causes,” he added.
Spain’s Health Ministry has recommended that the country’s regions activate their heat plans – which outline measures to protect people from scorching temperatures.
That normally happens from June 1, but the ministry said that in 2023 they could come into effect as early as May 15, depending on the situation in each region.
The regional government of Madrid said metro trains in the Spanish capital would pass more frequently than usual to prevent long waits on platforms and crowding.
It is also considering opening some public swimming pools earlier in the year to help people cool off, and let schools adapt their timetables to avoid the worst of the heat.