Spain braced for April’s record temperature of 39C as extreme heat causes misery

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Spain’s government has advised people to take extra care as the drought-stricken country experiences record-breaking temperatures that could lead to an unprecedented April temperature of 39C (102F) in parts of Andalusia on Friday.

Abnormally high spring temperatures this week – caused by a mass of very warm air from North Africa crossing the Iberian Peninsula and the Balearic Islands – have already led the regional government in Madrid to approve a plan to help hospitals, health and schools to cope, and to order the opening of public swimming pools a month earlier than usual.

In Seville, where temperatures were expected to hit 36C on Thursday, police were trying to determine whether a horse pulling a carriage of tourists had died of heatstroke.

Related: Weather tracker: Heat in Spain could break April temperature record

The central government has reminded citizens to stay hydrated and carry out regular checks on vulnerable people such as babies, children and the elderly as the episode of extreme heat peaks on Thursday and Friday.

According to Rubén del Campo, spokesman for the Spanish state meteorological agency, Aemet, in recent days Spain has recorded temperatures between 7°C and 11°C above the average for the time of year. He said temperatures in the Andalusian provinces of Seville and Córboba could reach 39C on Friday.

April temperature records have already been broken at Córdoba airport – where the mercury hit 35.1°C earlier this week, surpassing the maximum of 34°C recorded in April 2017 – and at Jerez airport, where the temperature of 35°C broke the April record of 33.6°C set in 1997.

Del Campo said April 2023 is on track to become the hottest April on record.

“Confirmation is still pending, but this high-temperature episode will likely be the hottest April in the Iberian peninsula since records began, since at least 1950,” he said.

“When it comes to the relationship between this type of weather and climate change, we know that extremely high temperatures have become more frequent and more intense, and this intense and extreme heat is coming sooner. While each episode needs to be analyzed individually and in detail, this episode fits into what’s happening due to climate change.”

A woman fills bottles of drinking water from a truck in Alcaracejos, Spain April 27 after the local tank nearly ran dry.

A woman fills bottles of drinking water from a truck in Alcaracejos, Spain April 27 after the local tank nearly ran dry. Photograph: Reuters

Del Campo also noted that this month’s rainfall has been much lower on average; terrible news for a country that has been in a drought since January last year.

He said 12 liters per square meter of rain fell in Spain between April 1 and April 23, just 25% of the normal amount. As it stands, this April could surpass April 1995 – when 23 liters per square meter of rain fell – as the driest on record.

While temperatures are expected to drop over the weekend, they could start to rise again next Tuesday, Del Campo added.

In May last year, temperatures in parts of Spain exceeded 40°C as a mass of warm, dry air brought temperatures between 10°C and 15°C above the seasonal average and more akin to the high summer. This was followed by two heat waves in June and July, accompanied by forest fires that burned hundreds of thousands of hectares of land across Spain.

A recent EU report concluded that the climate crisis had “appalling” impacts in Europe last year, with heatwaves killing more than 20,000 people and drought causing crops to wither.

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