40 degrees in the month of May, 41 days with heat waves during the summer, a warmer fall than normal or more than 20 degrees at the end of December. The temperatures of the last year in Spain have not gone unnoticed, to the point that in several cities in our country, as in others in southern Europe, the thermometers have risen to the same level as cities more than 420 kilometers to the south.
It is the case of Madrid, for example, where the temperatures reached throughout 2022 have been almost identical to those experienced in Tissemsilt, an Algerian city located more than 500 kilometers to the south. In others like badajoz, the climate has been almost identical to that of the city of Tounate, in Morocco; or in Saragossawhere the thermometers reached the same degrees as the Greek city of Nafplio.
These are data revealed today by an analysis by the climate change consultancy Callendar, based in Paris. With the online Climate Comparer tool, the historical temperature of the European Center for Medium-Term Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) has been studied and compared with those suffered this last year in 100 cities in southern Europe, distributed between Spain, Portugal, France and Italy.
As the tool shows, it is striking that in Italian cities near the Alps, such as Milan or Turin, temperatures typical of Greece were recorded. Or in Strasbourg, in France, where they reached a warmth typical of San Marino, on the Mediterranean coast. all with an average of temperatures 1.38 degrees warmer than the historical from 1990 to 2020.
That areas like these reach such high temperatures in such an extensive period of time has a direct impact on health. Especially in Spain, where, in addition to the effects on the most vulnerable sectors of the population, up to 5,876 deaths have been registered in the last year.
According to a study of The Lancetours is the country that registers the most deaths attributable to heat in Europe, where the World Health Organization (WHO) has recorded around 15,000 deaths. If on the continent the increase in these deaths has been about 15 per million inhabitants and decades, in Spain it is double, with 30.6 deaths. Figures that could still double in the next 34 years.
What is certain is that we adapt more and more to these temperatures. As the latest CSIC study published in the scientific journal Environmental HealthIn general, populations such as those in Spain better withstand extremes of climate, both hot and cold.
Researcher Dariya Ordanovich, from the CSIC’s Institute of Economics, Geography and Demography, comments that Spain is one of the countries most affected by the increase in temperatures and heat waves within the Mediterranean region. However, she stresses that “with the passage of time, people tend to adapt to new conditions, whether unfavorable or favorable.”
Data analyzed from more than 14 million deaths over the last 40 years in Spain show that those attributable to cold have been reduced almost three times; on the other hand, those of the heat have decreased less and are only found at the end of the observation period of the study.
According to researcher Aurelio Tobías, from the Institute for Environmental Diagnosis and Water Studies (IDAEA-CSIC), adaptation to non-optimal temperatures in Spain has been taking place progressively. First, since 1989, for the cold and 20 years later, since 2009, for the heat. However, he adds that “despite this adaptation, there remains a considerable health risk from extreme heatas seen during the summer of 2022.”
And this is not to mention other types of impacts. Although now the Spanish water reserves exceed 50% of their capacity, our region has chained several months of drought and lack of water. Aspects that have had an impact on crops and energy generation, in addition to helping to increase the already high prices of the shopping basket and the electricity bill.
[Asfixiados y quemados por el cambio climático: el verano que se nos cayó la venda (I)]
Exposure to climate change
The question underlying the continual abrupt changes in climate is what is the fault of climate change. This is the question posed by several Climate Central experts, specialized in the study of the climate crisis, who calculated to what extent climate change is behind the temperatures we have experienced in recent months.
The Climate Change Index that they prepared showed that in the top 10 in Europe with extreme temperatures during this 2022 were four important Spanish cities: Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Zaragoza. The results, published in the scientific journal Advances in Statistical Climatology, Meteorology and Oceanography, show that these cities were exposed to more extreme weather due to the influence of climate change.
Madrid, for example, was the third European city hardest hit by temperature changes, only behind Valletta (in Malta) and Longyearbyen (in Norway), with 66 days in total.
In addition, as stated in the report, the capital was the only European city among the 121 cities in the world with the highest level of exposure of its population to changes in daily maximum and minimum temperatures during the period analyzed (since October 1, 2021 to September 30, 2022).
Now, under the influence of freezing cold in countries like Spain, the same suspicion persists. In the absence of attribution studies to confirm this, the truth is that the effects of climate change they cause situations similar to those we have experienced this time: an autumn with the degrees typical of spring or a year-end with autumnal temperatures.
The State Meteorological Agency collected in its last annual climate balance that, in 2022, Spain had exceeded the annual average of 15 degrees for the first time to reach 15.3. In addition, the cyclical arrival of the meteorological phenomenon known as El Niño tends to warm temperatures more, so it can further enhance the effects of global warming.
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