MADRID, March 17 (AP) Spain has officially entered a prolonged dry spell due to high temperatures and low rainfall over the past three years and could face another year of heatwaves and forest fires.
The country’s Aemet weather agency said on Friday that statistics showed Spain entering a prolonged drought in late 2022, with no sign of a major change in the first three months of 2023.
“The first available forecast for summer 2023 suggests that temperatures could again be higher than normal,” said Aemet spokesman Ruben del Campo, adding that the upcoming summer “could have a very high fire risk given the high temperatures. .”
But del Campo noted that the country had previously experienced severe droughts in 2017, 2005, and in the late 1990s and 1980s.
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“In context, we’re in a drought, but it’s more severe, which doesn’t mean it’s not important,” he told a news conference.
Aemet said Spain is geographically prone to heat and drought, but climate change is a key factor.
Spain has warmed by 1.3 degrees Celsius (34 degrees Fahrenheit) since the 1960s, Del Campo said, and the warming is significant year-round, especially in summer — when the average temperature rose by 1.6 degrees.
He said such an increase might not appear too large, but noted that “when we’re talking about a scenario as large as the Iberian Peninsula, with 500,000 square kilometers of data per year, that trend translates into more hot hours,” He has doubled his heating hours over the past 10 to 12 years compared to previous years.
Last year was Spain’s sixth driest year and its hottest since records began in 1961. Rainfall was 16 percent below average, and the average daily temperature exceeded 15 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit) for the first time.
However, December was one of the wettest months in recent years, improving the situation considerably. Recent rains have boosted reservoir water storage to 51% of capacity, well above the dangerous low of below 35% by the end of 2022. But at least two regions, most notably those near Barcelona in Catalonia in northeastern Spain, are suffering from severe water shortages.
Spain’s Ministry of Ecological Transition said that while the situation was “worrisome”, there were currently no restrictions on drinking water anywhere and there were no such restrictions expected this year.
There may be localized agricultural and industrial water restrictions, such as in Catalonia, which has had to restrict agricultural and industrial water use since November 2022. Washing cars or filling swimming pools with potable water is prohibited.
Land-based heatwaves have become commonplace in many countries along the Mediterranean Sea, with serious side effects of wildfires, drought, reduced crop yields and uncomfortably high temperatures. (Associated Press)
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