Mainland Spain and Portugal smashed record April temperatures, officials said on Friday, as both countries began to wilt in an unusually early heat wave that raised the risk of wildfires.
The National Meteorological Office said the mercury reached 38.8 degrees Celsius (101.8 degrees Fahrenheit) at an airport in the southern Spanish city of Cordoba on Thursday, surpassing the previous record of 38.6 degrees Celsius in the eastern city of Elche.
An agency spokesman told AFP that these “interim data” still have to be confirmed, a process that could take several days.
However, the highest temperature for all of Spain in the month of April was recorded in 2013 in the Canary Islands off the northwest coast of Africa when the mercury reached 40.2°C.
In neighboring Portugal, temperatures in the central town of Mora reached 36.9C on Thursday, breaking the record high of 36C set in April 1945 in the northeastern town of Pinhão, the meteorological agency IPMA said.
While temperatures began to drop in Portugal on Friday, the scorching heat continued across much of Spain with the mercury reaching a high of 36°C in Cordoba.
The unusually early heat wave was driven by a mass of very hot and dry air from Africa.
The scorching temperatures have prompted warnings of a rising risk of wildfires and worsening drought conditions that have already prompted some farmers in Spain not to sow seeds this year.
The Spanish government said it would launch its wildfire monitoring campaign on Friday, a month and a half earlier than usual due to the early arrival of scorching temperatures.
This will include adding reinforcements to local firefighting teams and “constant monitoring of wildfires” across the country, the Home Office said in a statement.
Fires have destroyed about 54,000 hectares (133,400 acres) of land so far this year in Spain, compared to just over 17,000 hectares during the same time in 2022, according to the European Forest Fire Information System.
Last year, Spain had its hottest year since records began, with United Nations figures indicating that nearly 75 percent of its territory is at risk of desertification due to climate change.
Water reservoirs are at half capacity nationwide and the Agriculture Committee’s Farmers’ Union says 60 percent of farmland is “suffocating” from lack of rainfall.
Spain is the largest exporter of olive oil in the world and a major exporter of fruits and vegetables in Europe.
Experts say human-induced climate change is increasing the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, such as heat waves, droughts and wildfires.
© 2023 AFP
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