Summer Solstice 2007

 

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Today is the first day of summer. That makes it the longest day of the year, that makes it the shortest night of the year. One could also say that from now on we are heading towards winter. Phew!

It’s been rather hot here. Make that 27º C in Mallorca, 22º C in Madrid, 27º C in Sevilla, 30º C in Malaga and 28º C in Tenerife. People are beginning to talk of a short, but hot Summer in Spain this year.

We do not want to bore you with more bad news about the effects of Global Warming. After all, Herr Über-Bush is not much worried about that, so why should we? But the fact is that the climate pattern over the last ten or twenty years in Spain has shown to be one of shorter but hotter summer spells.

Recent weather patterns point to climate change already having an impact in Spain and the country is likely to become hotter and more arid, Spanish weather expert Angel Rivera from the National Meteorological Institute (INM) in Madrid said recently. “What we are seeing is an accumulation of records” says Señor Rivera, who has been forecasting Spanish weather patterns for the last 30 years.

Spain logged the driest year since records began, in 2005. The hottest May temperatures ever were recorded last year and Spain has now had a series of winters that are milder than usual. Last year also set a new record for average summer temperatures, although the peaks fell short of 2003.

“This accumulation of evidence, with high temperatures, intense drought and heavy rain, taken together is worrying and could be in line with climate change” Rivera told Reuters in an interview.

Spain is influenced by the Mediterranean Sea and by its proximity to Africa and therefore is heating up slightly faster than much of the rest of Europe. That means Spain’s dry regions will become drier and more arid and water will become scarcer, both because it rains less and because more of the rainfall evaporates. Climate models tend to point to world temperatures rising 2 or 3 degrees Celsius on average over the next 40 or 50 years.

That does not sound too bad perhaps, but Rivera says that in Spain, where weather patterns are already extreme, summer peaks could rise by proportionally more. In cities like Madrid or Sevilla, where temperatures already hit 45º C at least briefly most summers, life is likely to become considerably more uncomfortable.

In Spain it looks as if heat waves in summer will become more frequent and more intense. In winter there will be fewer days below zero and rain will become erratic, with more Mediterranean storms and less of the persistent Atlantic front type rain that is vital for replenishing reservoirs and aquifers, Angel Rivera said.

“If the climate models prove correct, as now looks likely to be the case, the situation in a few decades could be truly worrying. Unfortunately what looks likely is that Spain will become increasingly drier and more arid because of the uneven distribution of the rainfall” Rivera said.

Climate change has happened before in the history of the Earth, but always over hundreds or thousands of years, he noted. This time, with greenhouse gas emissions from industrial nations burning fossil fuels the main culprit, the same changes are happening in just a few decades.

“It’s not easy for species to adapt that fast” Rivera said.

Well, we better sit tight. A good start would be to switch down that air conditioning unit or even switch it off. Have you ever thought about that?

Let’s all make a change.

And for those that have been reading my recent entry on Alaska (22 May), you might be interested to know that in Alaska today it will be daytime all day long, like 24 hours, and today it will be the night where there is no night in Alaska. None whatsoever. Hard to imagine, isn’t it?

In the Catalonian part of Spain, including the Balearic Isles, the longest day of the year will be celebrated with a display of ‘Correfoc’. ‘Diablos’ play with fire and with the people. These devils are not the incarnation of evil; they are sprightly and festive, dancing to the sound of the tambourine and the traditional pipe, while they set off their fireworks.

Some ‘Correfocs’ are simple parades including fireworks and effigies of the devil. In Mallorca, it is common for a crowd to line a street, and participants run through a tunnel of fireworks. In Barcelona, ‘Correfocs’ are run at the local fiesta ‘La Mercé’ in September. It is a spectacular event, thrilling but not without certain risks. Do not take children of too young an age.

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