Saturday, September 23

We face the earliest heat wave in history: summer is also changing forever

We live in such crazy times interesting that it will suffice to sit in front of a thermometer to experience a truly historic event. And it is that from Wednesday to Saturday, the temperatures of the peninsula will not stop rising and rising in what, according to the AEMET criteria, seems to be the earliest heat wave since we have records.

Heat, heat and more heat. Today, Wednesday, this “important warm episode” begins that affects all of Europe and will place the country’s thermometers (with the exception of the Canary Islands and the north of the peninsula) between 10 and 15 degrees above normal. So far, the earliest “official” heat waves on record occurred on June 11, 1981 and June 13, 2017. If all the requirements for a “heat wave” are finally met (which are many and very strict), we will be talking about an advance of practically a month.

And the worst thing is that we saw it coming. As the AEMET itself has been explaining for years, “the number of days with a heat wave increases at a rate of 2.2 days every 10 years”. Thus, we have gone from 2.8 days (with 0.8 episodes) in the 1975-79 period to 16.6 days (with 3.2 episodes each year) in the 2016-2020 period.

More than 40 degrees in the month of May: this is how the heat wave that will explode during the weekend is brewing

Why is this happening now? It will not be a surprise, but it is legitimate to wonder what is happening that we are running into this now. The causes are old acquaintances: we are in a situation of great weather stability, strong sunshine and, as if that were not enough, a mass of warm air of African origin is expected that will round off the warm episode right at its peak: Friday and Saturday. In fact, linked to this, a moderate episode of haze is also expected.

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What can we expect? Very hot heat. Also, at a time when we are much less prepared than usual to deal with it. It is worth remembering that things like wearing the right clothes (too much clothing can make it difficult to sweat and we must remember that sweat is our main biological cooling system), not exercising during the hottest hours or being well hydrated (water can be a great ally depending on how we use it) can help us prevent the main health problems of the heat wave.

europe heat wave

A perfect (heat) storm. After all, if the predictions come true, we will not only be facing the earliest heat wave in history, but also the most important in the last twenty years on the peninsula and in the Balearic Islands. And this is, above all, a warning to navigators. Because it will go further. As Roberto Granda pointed out a few days ago, if we look at the first day of the year that exceeds 30 degrees, we will see that for the last decades that day has only come forward. If in the 60s, it was normal for 30 degrees to be reached in June, in recent decades that limit is usually reached in May. In 2022 we will exceed them on May 10 and, in light of what is to come, it would not be unusual for us to exceed 40 in the coming days.

However, this is only part of a problem that goes much further: it is enough to remember that more than 20% of the country is already desertified and that, by very little, the 2017 drought was not the most savage in 320 years. This is just a symptom, the underlying disease is still out there.

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