Parts of Spain on alert for ‘extreme’ temperatures in May

Large areas of Spain were under weather alert on Friday as an intense heat wave began to sweep the country, leaving residents sweltering in May with some of the hottest temperatures in 20 years.

A hot, dry air mass carrying dust from North Africa has pushed temperatures up to 15C above average, with mercury hitting 40C in parts of the country.

The State Weather Agency said it expected “unusual and extreme” temperatures to peak on Saturday.

“These temperatures will likely be among the hottest we’ve seen in May in the 21st century,” agency spokesman Ruben del Campo said.

By Friday, a handful of records had already been set. In the city of Jaen, in southern Spain, the temperature soared to 38.7°C – 15 degrees above the seasonal average – in a record for the month of May.

In the central city of Cuenca, the daily low temperature of 19.5C was two degrees higher than the previous May low.

While temperatures are expected to be below what Spanish meteorologists define as a heat wave, what makes this episode unique will be its persistence, with nighttime temperatures expected to exceed 20°C in many places.

High temperatures are expected to push northeast in the coming days, with little relief expected until Sunday.

The agency announced Friday that it has put four regions on high alert due to the heat.

The central regions of Castile-La Mancha, Extremadura and Madrid were under yellow alert, meaning they were at risk, while southern Andalusia was under orange alert – warning of significant risk in due to intense heat.

No region was under red alert, the highest level which corresponds to an extreme risk.

Mr Del Campo characterized the May heat as part of a wider pattern that has seen summer weather start to arrive in Spain almost a month earlier than in the 1980s.

He was unequivocal about the cause. “What’s behind all this?” Mr. Del Campo asked.

“Climate change, obviously anthropogenic, generated by the emission of greenhouse gases linked to human activity.”

Updated: May 20, 2022, 7:06 p.m.

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