In light of the current heat wave and rising wildfire concerns among Spanish authorities, Spain’s government started its wildfire watch campaign on Friday – a month and a half earlier than usual.
Scorching temperatures enveloping Spain and Portugal put the month of April in the record books as both nations underwent a severe early heat wave that has since prompted fears of potential wildfires in the region.
New records saw Spain’s Cordoba reach a sweat-inducing 38.8 degrees Celsius and Portugal’s Mora hit an astounding 36.9C. The heat wave is thought to be the result of a mass of hot and dry air from Africa, which has not only increased the risk of wildfires in both countries but potential droughts.
The current weather conditions are particularly worrying as Spain experienced its hottest year on record last year, with climate change causing almost 75% of the country’s land to be at risk of desertification.
This means that the land is becoming increasingly arid, with vegetation dying off and soil becoming less fertile, making it harder for farmers to grow crops and for animals to graze.
In addition to the environmental impact, the heat wave is also raising the risk to public health as high temps can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke, particularly in vulnerable groups such as the elderly and young children.
The situation has become so dire at present that schools in Spain are being forced to change timetables because of the heat. Public transportation schedules in the Spanish capital of Madrid have also been upped so as to ensure trains are running more frequently and prevent delays.
Spain’s public swimming pools are also expected to open a month earlier so local residents can use the facilities to keep cool.
The previous high April record for mainland Spain dates back to 2011 and was recorded in Elche at 38.6 degrees.
This record, however, is not an absolute record for the whole of Spain; in fact, the highest temperature reading was recorded in 2013 in the Canary Islands, located off the northwest coast of Africa. It was set at 40.2 degrees.
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