The outlook for the remainder of autumn and the upcoming meteorological winter months (December, January, and February) in Spain and the Canary Islands, in particular, suggests above-average temperatures, according to forecasts from the State Meteorological Agency (AEMET). There is a probability of around 40 to 50 percent that the November-January period and February will be wetter than normal, although it might not be enough to alleviate the prolonged meteorological drought that began at the end of 2022.
AEMET’s spokesperson, Rubén del Campo, emphasized the presence of a long-term meteorological drought in Spain. The recently concluded hydrological year 2022-2023, which ended on September 30, was marked by a significant lack of rainfall. It ranked as the sixth driest of the century and the twelfth driest since 1961 when historical weather records began. The recorded rainfall in Spain for this hydrological year was 560.7 liters per square meter, which is 12 percent below the normal value of 640.1 liters per square meter.
The drought situation is particularly severe in the eastern Pyrenees, especially in Catalonia, and the Ebro basin, which covers the northeastern third of the Iberian Peninsula. Del Campo pointed out that all the regions that accumulate precipitation are experiencing this long-term drought. Additionally, the Guadiana, Guadalquivir, and Southern basins are currently facing the longest meteorological drought since at least 1961, with the drought starting in the spring of 2016, more than seven years ago.
Del Campo compared the current drought with previous droughts of the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s, concluding that while it may not be as intense as some earlier droughts, it has reached a significant level of intensity. The current drought, which began in 2022, is already considered one of the longest in the historical series, surpassing those of the 80s and 90s.
Regarding temperatures, October experienced an exceptional period of warmth in Spain. It was reported as the warmest first half of October in the historical records, with temperatures exceeding the norm by 3.3ºC. The first half of October also saw an average temperature anomaly of 4.8ºC warmer than usual, accumulating eleven consecutive days of record warm temperatures from September 28 to October 9. The Canary Islands, in particular, faced an extraordinary heatwave, potentially the longest on record in the archipelago since 1950.
Del Campo attributed this warm October episode preliminarily to climate change and the ‘El Niño’ weather phenomenon, which has already become robust.
CANARY ISLANDS: FORECAST UNTIL SPRING
Looking ahead to the remaining months of 2023 and the beginning of 2024, there is significant uncertainty in weather forecasts. However, a more robust scenario indicates a 60 to 70 percent likelihood of warmer than normal conditions between October and February, extending into the first quarter of the new year. While there’s no clear signal for the Mediterranean or the Canary Islands in terms of precipitation, there’s a cautious expectation that most of the Peninsula may experience wetter than normal conditions.
To fully alleviate the prolonged meteorological drought, Spain would require two exceptionally rainy seasons, among the rainiest in historical records. Del Campo estimated that to return to normal values for this autumn and winter, there would need to be at least 230 liters per square meter more rainfall than what has fallen in the last two years. This is a rare occurrence that has only happened once since 1961, specifically in 1965.