Iberian peninsula heat breaks April record for Spain by nearly 5°C

Iberian peninsula heat breaks April record for Spain by nearly 5°C
1 May 2023

By the Climate Centre

The Spanish Red Cross (CRE) was last week reaching out to vulnerable groups such as the elderly with health advice as – together with much of Portugal – the country wilted in abnormally high temperatures that may have generated a record for all Europe in April.

CRE Health Officer Javier Sánchez Jiménez said in a video message the thermometer in Andalusia had reportedly touched 40°C last week at one point. “We stay alert and care for those who need us the most,” he said.

A maximum temperature of 38.8°C was provisionally recorded at Córdoba airport in the south of Spain by the Spanish weather service on Thursday; AEMET said the previous record for April set in 2017 was 34.0°C

The spring heatwave that affected most of the Iberian peninsula last week was the product of a weather system that funnelled unusually hot air from North Africa. 

Andreas von Weissenberg, Budapest-based head of the Health, Disaster, Crisis and Climate Unit for the IFRC in Europe, said Friday: “The heat is on. And it’s only April.

“[The IFRC] has said it many times before: heat is a silent killer. Spikes in excess deaths are clear during heatwaves. We need to adapt – more and better – to anticipate, warn and protect vulnerable groups before and during heatwaves.”

‘The heat is on and it’s only April’

Earlier in April, the north-west Spanish principality of Asturias was swept by wildfires aggravated by strong winds after an unusually dry, warm winter.

AEMET said then that since 1961, March had only been drier than in 2023 five times, with rainfall just a third of the monthly average.

The Climate Centre’s Roop Singh, who leads work on heat risk and also hosts the Can’t Take the Heat podcast, said today: “Early-season heat is particularly dangerous because people are not yet acclimated to high temperatures and may not have prepared to cool their homes.

“This is where emergency services and National Societies really fill gaps by communicating about a heatwave and the services available to people.”

Portugal’s weather service, meanwhile, said that the national temperature record for April – 36ºC in the town of Pinhão set in 1945 – had been exceeded at seven measuring stations last Thursday, by nearly a full degree at one.

Spanish Red Cross volunteers distribute drinking water to people during last summer’s record-breaking heat. (2022 file photo: CRE)