Articles in ‘Climate’

Electrical storm

August 11th, 2009;topic=2564.0;attach=5095;image

Stunning image of the immense power of an electrical storm in Alicante by Big Vern over on the forum, where he notes:

…we witnessed the most spectacular electrical storm I have ever seen, including those I’ve experienced in the tropics. We live in the Orba valley in the north of the Costa Blanca and this storm seemed to be out at sea; the thunder was very distant. The lightning was continuous and multiple, striking out in all directions – in fact I never saw any of the bolts go to earth. This fantastic light display continued for almost 15 minutes until the huge thunderhead cloud started to break up. Read more

Spanish winter not so cold

March 19th, 2009

Despite our impressions, it seems that this year’s winter in Spain has not been so cold. According to the Agencia Estatal de Meteorología (Aemet) winter registered an average temperature of 7.4º, more than half a point more than the same period for 2004 and 2005. The sensation of cold is due perhaps to the occasional extreme spells.
El País

And according to the AEMET 2008 has been a warm year in comparison with the 1971-2000 period, though it has been the coldest since 1996 with an average temperature of 15.0 ºC.
AEMET (pdf)

Disappearance of glaciers in the Pyrenees

February 24th, 2009

Another study has highlighted the likely disappearance of the glaciers in the Pyrenees in the next 40-50 years.

Since the first study by French geographer Franz Schrader in 1894, the Pyrenean glaciers have lost 88 percent of their 1,779-hectare surface area, according to a report by the Spanish Ministry of the Environment. Low rainfall and the rise in temperatures is leading to their rapid melting, and it is estimated that by the middle of the century, they will have vanished altogether. This has accelerated in recent years with the glaciers losing 72 hectares between 2002 and 2008. One of the most striking examples is that of La Madaleta glacier, one of the largest in the Pyrenees, whose thickness has shrunk by 180 metres since 1991 at an average rate of 11 metes a year. The absence of snowfall in summer in recent years has exacerbated this regression. Lower snowfall is also likely to spell long-ter, disaster for the skiing industry.

See also:

Climate change affecting wine in Spain

October 27th, 2008

Climate change is beginning to affect vineyards in Spain. The start of the grape harvest has moved forward 11 days in the last 20 years. This is increasingly seen as a major threat to the wine industry in Spain and elsewhere. According to the experts, until now the changes to grapes caused by higher temperatures (fruitier flavours, higher acidity and higher concentrations of alcohol) have generally had a positive impact on the taste of wines. But if temperatures keep rising in Spain, wines could soon taste very different, ruining some vintages.

Glaciers to disappear in the Pyrenees by 2050

September 6th, 2008

Glaciar de Monteperdido in the Aragonese Pyrenees (El País)

A Spanish study published in The Holocene has concluded that the progressive rise in temperatures since 1890 will lead to the total disappearance of the Pyrenean glaciers by 2050.

Glaciers advanced during the Little Ice Age (LIA) between 1300 and 1860 in the Pyrenees, Picos de Europa and Sierra Nevada. These were most extensive in the Pyrenees (because of altitude and latitude) but today glaciers remain only in the highest peaks. There were six glaciers in the Picos de Europa Massif during the LIA, and one glacier, the southernmost of Europe, in the Sierra Nevada (Pico de Veleta). All of these glaciers have been in continuous retreat since the end of the nineteenth century, 94 have disappeared completely (Veleta in 1913), leaving 29 glaciers in the Pyrenees (10 in Spain, 11 in France), four buried icepatches in the Picos de Europa and one buried icepatch in the Sierra Nevada. The last 15 years has seen a 50-60% reduction in surface area of the largest glaciers.

The Little Ice Age was not a continuous period of cold. These Iberian glaciers expanded most rapidly between 1645 and 1710, and then shrunk between 1750 and the early 19th century but then recovered after a new cold period. Since the end of the 19th century temperatures have risen more sharply by 0.7ºC and 0.9ºC in the mountains in northern Spain in line with global warming. El País

See also

  • Climate guide to Spain
  • The Little Ice Age in Spain
  • Glaciers in Spain (2004) Spanish glaciers melting fast Greenpeace has released a report on the state of Spain’s glaciers. The glaciers on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees are melting fast.. Total surface area has dropped from 1779 hectares in 1894 to 290 in 2000, representing a fall of 85% in of surface area. 52% of this has occurred in the last 20 years, and 30% between 1991 and 2001.

Prediction changes to hot dry summer for Spain

June 22nd, 2008

After the wettest spring for 57 years in Spain, the latest predictions, contradicting a previous long-term forecast, are for a hot, dry summer, though without the long extreme heat waves of 2003. El País

Cooler summer prediction for Spain

June 9th, 2008

The latest very tentative predictions by the US NOAA forecast group are forecasting a cooler than average summer this year for Spain with above average rainfall. Below variations from average temperatures, and here for rain map from the Catalan weather service.

May rains spell end to drought

June 3rd, 2008

A remarkable and fortuitous month of rain in May has put an end to the drought affecting much of Spain, and in particular in Catalonia, where the much-publicised and criticised plan to transfer water from the Ebro to Barcelona is to be shelved. Overall for Spain, this has been the rainiest May since 1971, and the third wettest since 1940, with an average of 115 l/m2 across the country (1971 and 1984 recorded 124 and 115, respectively). Some areas have seen much longer records broken. For instance, Roquetas (Tarragona) has recorded the wettest May since 1880, leading to flooding along stretches of the Ebro. There has also been serious flooding in recent days further west along the Ebro Depression and in the Basque Country. Crops in some areas have been ruined. As the Spanish saying goes Nunca llueve a gusto de todos.

Reservoirs across Spain are now at 59.3% of their capacity. The reservoirs of the “internal basins” of Catalonia, which supply Barcelona, have doubled their capacity in less than two months to 53%. Various sources including El Mundo

We’ve heard another weather expression a lot in recent weeks, testament to the rains: Hasta el cuarenta de mayo no te quites el sayo. (Until the 40th of May, don’t take your coat off)- N’er cast a clout till may be out, as they once said in English.

Update: Heavy rains have continued in some areas into June. The Guardian reported on this story and the effects of rain the Zaragoza Expo

Expo2008: Rain in Spain causes Zaragoza to complain

Organisers of international water festival find their grand opening hampered by heavy rainfall

The Tramontana wind

May 28th, 2008

I enjoyed reading this piece on the Tramontana wind written for Iberianature by Francis Barrett as part of his Guide to the Ampurdan. In Spain, Tramontana refers to the wind which blows NE-SW across the Ampurdan region of Girona. (Painting above by Fransesc Gimeno: An Ampordan village. Note Montgrí in the background – 1918)

…. the strong Tramontana wind is a fairly regular feature of the region in all seasons except summer. This variant of the French Mistral wind blows NE-SW across the landscape for 3-12 days at a time, and can be bitter when the Pyranees are covered in snow and ice. Taking shelter indoors avoids the icy blast, but not the shrill moan as the wind swirls around corners and down chimneys to make fireplace flames flicker and die. The English proverb “red sky at night – shepherds’ delight; red sky in the morning – sailors’ warning” is reversed in the Ampurdan; glorious sunsets signal the imminence of the Tramontana, whereas beautiful dawns are the norm.

The influence of the Tramontana can be seen in the rural landscape and architecture, with walls and lines of beech (sic) trees designed as windbreaks, and open arches at the top level of old farmhouses to dry stored crops. The people of the region tend to live in harmony with the local climactic vagaries, but the Tramontana affects their behaviour most of all, making the children giddy on the first day and rendering everybody depressed when it blows for a week. After 10 days of Tramontana, the murder rate goes up and both people and animals have been known to commit suicide. Catalonia celebrates eight traditional winds, but only the people of the Ampurdan, or Empordanesos, are said to be tocats per al vent – “touched”or mentally affected by the wind.

Elsewhere is this excellent piece by Ian Gibson in the New York Times on the tramontana wind from his Shameful Life of Salvador Dalí

Around 1881 Gal Dali moved to Barcelona. According to family tradition the main reason for this decision was that he found he could no longer stand the tramuntana. This fierce north wind, as integral a part of life in the Upper Emporda as the rain in London, has to be experienced to be believed. Dry and bitterly cold in winter, it roars and blasts its way down through the passes of the Pyrenees (hence tramuntana, `from across the mountains’), sweeping the sky clear of clouds, and, hitting the Emporda, forces the cypresses almost to their knees, smashes flowerpots, snaps television masts and coats the cliffs of Cape Creus white with salt lashed from the waves. The tramuntana blows regularly at over 130 kilometres an hour, and has been known to overturn railway carriages and hurl cars into the sea. At Port-Bou, on the French frontier, it can be so violent that the paramilitary Civil Guard used to enjoy a special dispensation allowing them to climb to their quarters upstairs on all-fours: a position that would normally have been considered undignified in the extreme for a force of law and order famed for its machismo.

Gibson continues:

The tramuntana can affect the emotions as brutally as it does the sea and countryside, and is a constant topic of conversation in this region. The Empordanese are known for their intransigence (the Dalis were no exception), and one authority on the area has attributed this to their having to push constantly against the wind. Anyone a little dotty in these parts, or with a tendency suddenly to flare up, is likely to be labelled atramuntanat (`touched by the tramuntana’), and in the past crimes passionnels committed when the wind was raging were half-way to being condoned. As for depressives, they can be driven to absolute despair by a prolonged bout of the wind–and the bouts may last for eight or ten days, especially in winter. It is even alleged that the tramuntana is responsible for suicides, especially in Cadaques. The protagonist of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s short story, `Tramuntana’, is such a victim. It may well be that Gal Dali feared that, if he stayed on in the village, he was in mortal danger.


  • The wind also lends its name to the Serra de Tramuntana in Mallorca.
  • According to Wikipedia. the word tramontana comes from the Latin “transmontanus” and the Italian “tramontana,” meaning not just “across the mountains” but also “The North Star” (literally the star “above the mountains,”)

Pyrenean snowfall could drop by 50%

April 22nd, 2008

Spanish scientists from the Pyrenean Ecological Institute have predicted that temperatures in the mountain range in eastern Spain and south-west France could rise by between 2.8C and 4C by the start of the 22nd century. At the same time, snowfall levels could decline by between 30% and 50%. The study also claims that the slopes above 2,000 metres may see snow for only four to five months, whereas today they are covered for up to six months. The report, published in the International Journal of Climatology, also claimed rainfall levels could go down by between 10.7% and 14.8% a year by the end of this century. Researchers said the predictions, which cover the period between 2070 and 2100, were based on possible rises in greenhouse gases. They used six climate models which accurately estimated conditions in the Pyrenees between 1960 and 1990.
Juan Ignacio López-Moreno, a geographer, who led the Spanish High Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) team, said that in the best-case scenario, if emissions were low, by 2100 average temperatures could rise by 2.8C. However, if emissions rose, temperatures would increase by 4C. This would clearly have major implications for the Pyrenees. The Guardian or CSIC report here in Spanish