09/14/2021 at 1:32 PM CEST
The average air temperature in Spain has risen 1º C in the last 60 years, but the warming of the Mediterranean Sea is even worse: 1.4º C in just 40 years. Consequently, the number of tropical nights (in which the temperature does not drop below 20º C) has doubled in the country, although it has reached five times in the southern half. These are some of the data released by the Spanish Association of Geography in a report on the effects that are being registered in our country in the context of global climate warming.
The 6th Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change presented this summer leaves no doubt about the alterations that the world climate system is registering and that it has in the Mediterranean region, one of its most prominent ‘hot spots’ on the earth’s surface.
In Spain, the current climate change process is already showing evidence in all aspects of the climate system. The already verified increase in the average temperature above 1º C in the last six decades has resulted in a greater duration, frequency and intensity of extreme atmospheric phenomena such as heat waves.
The loss of thermal comfort is evident in some regions of southern and eastern Spain, where tropical nights have multiplied by five since 1980.
In the country as a whole, the number of these nights (in which the temperature does not drop below 20º at any time) has doubled since 1960, according to the data of the geographers association, going from 5.1 per year in the 1960 period. -1990 to 11.5 in the period 1991-2020.
The Mediterranean coast has warmed 1.4º C in 40 years, even more than the air
Climate warming has caused an increase in the temperature of the seas that surround the Spanish territory, and especially on the Mediterranean coast, which its temperature has increased by 1.4º C in the last four decades, that is, more even than the rise in air temperature.
This is favoring changes in atmospheric dynamics and increasing the potential for the generation of extreme rainfall events.
“The enormous rainfall irregularity in our country has also been affected with a increased severity of droughts with the already evident consequences for agricultural production and the spread and magnitude of forest fires, not to mention the alterations in the territorial distribution of species of vegetation and fauna, especially in mountain areas & rdquor ;, as revealed by Roberto Serrano, president of the Climate Change Group of the Association.
Only 19 glaciers remain in Spain of the 52 that existed
In addition, the progressive warming has led to a progressive decrease in snow precipitation and a very worrying retreat of our mountain glaciers, notably in the Pyrenees, for which a radical reduction of its extension or its extinction is foreseen as we know them for decades to come.
The glaciers of the Pyrenees are the last remnant of the ice masses that covered the mountain range during the ice age. They are the southernmost glaciers in Europe and, although they are distributed on the two Pyrenean slopes, they are larger on the southern slope.
In 1850 there were 52 glaciers in the Pyrenees. In 2021 there are only 19. Their disappearance is expected in just 30 years, although this will not make a great contribution to the rise in sea level, since they have already accumulated little ice for a long time. It will have other ecological consequences, since its disappearance supposes the total modification of a habitat on which many species depend.
All the projections for this century show scenarios of maintenance of the warming process in Spain with effects on human health and the environment and, ultimately, greater vulnerability to atmospheric phenomena.
«The current decade should be the decade of actions for mitigation and adaptation in the face of climate change. The Spanish geography will continue working to offer realistic and sustainable proposals to reduce the effects of global warming in our country. It is time for action. We know the effects that climate change may have on our country throughout this century ”, underlines Jorge Olcina, president of the Spanish Association of Geography.
For geographers, climate change should be the great axis of public policies and private actions in the coming years. “It is a collective opportunity to do things well, to change economic patterns that have been shown to be harmful to the environment, to adapt territories to the consequences of climate change,” he adds.
More deaths from heat than from cold
Heat generates loss of thermal comfort and effects on human health. A few years ago, an investigation by geographers David Martín and Jorge Olcina demonstrated the close relationship between the increase in cerebrovascular diseases due to the arrival of Saharan air in Alicante.
Now, a study by the Barcelona Institute of Global Health highlights the condition that thermal extremes are going to have in Spain. In particular, the heat is going to cause a large number of fatalities in the coming decades, so that the drop in deaths from cold will not be able to offset the annual number of victims from extreme heat in our country. It is one more consequence of the effects of climate warming that are already manifesting in an obvious way in our territory since 2000.
Since the beginning of this century, the statistics of deaths from extremes of temperature have been changing. Every year more people die from heat than from cold in the world. This can be verified in different databases of scientific organizations that compile deaths from atmospheric hazards in the world.
It may interest you: Climate change has caused 115 deaths a day since 1970