Drought Likely to Continue in Parts of Spain

In spite of a wet March, Spain is expected to experience another hot and dry summer, which is increasingly becoming the new normal.

By Daniel Dawson
Mar. 9, 2018 09:29 UTC

While the north of Spain and Portugal are in for an unusu­ally wet spring, the threat of drought remains in Spanish olive coun­try.

The warm and dry weather will come at a cost as the threat for drought con­di­tions will grow in east­ern Spain,” AccuWeather senior mete­o­rol­o­gist Alan Reppert said.

Now we need to begin to fill our aquifers and swamps and allow crops to recover from the tremen­dous drought.- ASAJA Jaén

Prolonged dry spells dur­ing spring may cause prob­lems for agri­cul­ture due to a lack of soil mois­ture in areas that typ­i­cally see very infre­quent rain­fall dur­ing the sum­mer.”

Reppert said that south­ern Spain should expect sub­stan­tial rain over the next sev­eral weeks, mean­ing it will take longer to dry out. He also expects sev­eral spring­time storms to pass through west­ern Spain. However, all this expected pre­cip­i­ta­tion may not be enough to coun­ter­act another hot and dry sum­mer.

Summer is look­ing like it will be dry over the area, which is nor­mal, but the dry weather will be even more ampli­fied this year,” he said. Normal rain­fall in parts of east­ern Spain are around an inch or lower, but even with nor­mal rain­fall being so low there will likely be below nor­mal rain­fall there.”

However, the heart of Spanish olive coun­try cur­rently is enjoy­ing a rainy March. Jorge Olcina, the head of the University of Alicante’s cli­mate insti­tute, pre­dicts that the region will have a wet March and receive more rain­fall in May and June. However, he also pre­dicts that April, July and August will be very hot and dry.

The Agricultural Association of Young Farmers (ASAJA) in Jaén said that farm­ers need to be dili­gent with all the recent rain­fall and use the water to replen­ish their aquifers.

The rains were wide­spread through­out the province and it is fore­casted to con­tinue,” an ASAJA Jaén spokesper­son said. Now we need to begin to fill our aquifers and swamps and allow crops to recover from the tremen­dous drought.”

In spite of the recent rain, experts do not think Spain is in the clear yet. Over the past three years, Spain has received con­sid­er­ably less rain­fall than nor­mal. Last year, the region received between 50 and 80 per­cent of its nor­mal pre­cip­i­ta­tion totals.

For the past sev­eral years there has been below nor­mal pre­cip­i­ta­tion,” Reppert said. Averages are based on 30-year totals, and the cur­rent ones are from 1980 to 2010, and when we get to the new aver­ages of 1990 to 2020, that will likely drop aver­ages even fur­ther for rain­fall and see aver­age tem­per­a­tures climb too.”

Climatologists believe this is part of a chang­ing pat­tern and that the Iberian Peninsula is shift­ing from a more tem­per­ate cli­mate to a sub­trop­i­cal one.

“[The region] tends to have more sub­trop­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics with higher tem­per­a­tures and rarer and more intense rains,” Olcina said. So cli­mate-related risks — heat­waves and rain and droughts and floods, will increase in the com­ing decades.”

Olcina said the whole of Spain, but the specif­i­cally the south, should expect hot­ter autumns and springs than nor­mal. His cli­mate mod­els pre­dict a con­sis­tent decrease in pre­cip­i­ta­tion with the trend con­tin­u­ing well past 2050.

This is the cli­mate sce­nario to which agri­cul­ture must adapt in the com­ing decades,” he said. More heat and more irreg­u­lar rain­fall, with less rain in spring, very dry sum­mers and some­thing more humid the autumns.”

Callum Henderson is the owner of Great Oil, which pro­duces oil from locally sourced olives in Jaén. He is skep­ti­cal that this year will be worse than the pre­vi­ous one, in which there was vir­tu­ally no rain­fall from April to September with record-high tem­per­a­tures.

Henderson said that the farm­ers with whom he works are enjoy­ing the rain ahead of what he antic­i­pates will be a dry, but not drier than usual, sum­mer.

The farm­ers are doing what they always do,” he said. My best guess is aver­age rain­fall this spring, [but] that’s in Mother Nature’s hands.”


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