NASA’s color-coded photo of a heatwave in the Iberian Peninsula

by Rose Maramba


After glorious days when it seemed we were not going to have to pay with high temperatures for all the wonderful golden sunshine we’ve been getting, we’re suddenly faced not just with the prospect of but actual temperatures hitting the 40s Celsius.

Cordoba's magical mosque, known famously and simply as the Mezquita

Cordoba’s magical mosque, known famously and simply as La Mezquita

Cordoba registered 41°C on Saturday, 15 July, and didn’t stop there. Right next day the mercury surged higher and reached thermometer-busting 44°C. But then the iconic Andalusian city of The Mezquita has a well-deserved reputation as Europe’s hottest city in summer, averaging 36.9°C in July.

Madrid, on the Meseta Central, reached 37°C on Sunday, well above the 33°C prevailing since late June. Which high is blissfully “mild” considering that the continental Mediterranean climate of inland Iberia is notorious for very hot and very dry summers, regularly surpassing 35°C and no rain to ease the scourge. Unless Santa Barbara bendita (Blessed St. Barbara) deigned to listen to the ritual song we sing to her nine successive times  and sprinkled a few drops from heaven (Ay, gloriosa Santa Bárbara, ten compasión de nosotros: danos agua sin la piedra)!

The Alhambra

The Alhambra

Some parts of the coastal strips of southern Mediterranean are subtropical we get to plant mangoes! Granada, of the  Alhambra fame, roasted on temperatures that topped at 42°C  last Sunday.

The Hot Arid sub-desertic Almeria is the only one of its kind in the whole of Europe and the Cabo de Gata in the province is known as Europe’s driest place due to almost total lack of rainfall. But many parts of Murcia and Alicante, this last one of Spain’s top tourist-drawers, share some of the characteristics of Almeria that knock us senseless.

Seville, notwithstanding its women of legendary beauty (that mysterious mix of Arab and Celtic genes not found allegedly elsewhere in Spain), is better skirted; it went 40°C last Sunday. Also Badajoz on the Portuguese border.

On18 June, the Spanish weather bureau AEMET warned 38 provinces of severe heat exceeding 40°C. The warning holds and, as if that were not enough, in the coming days ferocious thunderstorms will make the laden atmosphere that much more asphyxiating.

And there are still more than one month of hot summer too! Where to take shelter? We’ll try the north, head for Asturias, the Basque Country or Galicia. High altitudes and the winds of the Atlantic Ocean which send abundant moisture produce a stark meteorological contrast with the rest of Spain. Here in this “Green Spain” the average temperature hovers around the low 20’s.

Backpacker on La Gomera

Backpacker on La Gomera

Okay, that’s warm in comparison to the climates in Northwestern Europe but heavenly when compared to what awaits us in, say, Almeria or Cordoba.

One could also take refuge in the subtropical Canary Islands whose stable climate ranges from 18° to 24°C on the whole. The eastern islands of this archipelago off the coast of northwestern Africa are semi-arid but the westernmost enjoy abundant precipitation. Lucky La Gomora and La Palma up in the mountains, home to the laurissilva cloud forest. Here it could get really wet and therefore cool!



>Featured image by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic.
Says NASA: “On July 1, 2004, Spain (roughly the right-most three-quarters of the peninsula) and Portugal (left-hand quarter) were in the midst of a blistering heatwave that cost several people their lives. . .
“The image shown here is land surface temperature observations collected by MODIS [ Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer] that scientists have color-coded in shades of pink (coldest temperatures) to blackish-red (highest temperatures). Deep reds dominate, especially around the central part of the border between the two countries, where land surface temperatures reach a scorching 59 degrees Celsius (138 degrees Fahrenheit). According to news reports, air temperatures were above 40 degrees Celsius (over 100 degrees Fahrenheit). . .
“Image courtesy Jacques Descloitres and Ana Pinheiro, MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC”
>Mezquita by Bongo Vongo  (https://www.flickr.com/photos/jabbarman/), CC BY-SA2.0 Generic. Says Bongo Vongo: “I love this place. Not least of all because of the knowledge that it’s been a sacred place for Romans, Visigoths, Moors and Castillians. Perhaps it’s as a result of the combined prayers of all those people throughout the centuries that the place exudes such a sense of peace and tranquillity.”
>The Alhambra by Boca Dorada (https://www.flickr.com/photos/bocadorada/), CC BY-SA2.0 Generic
>LA GOMERA backpacker by Enrico Razzetti (https://www.flickr.com/photos/enricorazzetti/) CC BY SA 2.0 Generic