Unusually warm in southern Europe: why is this and does it also affect our weather? | Science and the planet

A strong high pressure area over southwestern Europe is causing unusually warm and dry weather in Spain and Portugal, which is worrying because reservoirs are barely replenishing. Temperatures are expected to rise in various places over the coming days, making spring seem to have begun early. How hot will it be in Spain? Will this area of ​​strong high pressure bring us mild weather as well? “Record January temperatures cannot be ruled out.”

look. Meteorologist Frank Dubucage: “The weather is so mild in many places in Europe that it feels like spring for some time.”

Last weekend, an extended portion of the Azores High, a common high pressure area near the Azores, reached southwestern Europe. Meanwhile, a strong high pressure area has been isolated from this and has established itself firmly over Spain. The soft, dry air accumulates, and the high air pressure compresses and warms it, which is known as a “heat dome.” Although it does not produce the heat of summer at this time of year, the high pressure area will provide dry, sunny weather and high temperatures in southwestern Europe in the coming days.

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It is currently warmer than usual in large parts of Europe. But the east coast of Spain takes the cake. Temperatures are more than 12 degrees Celsius higher than average for this time of year. © Wackcharts

Spain and Portugal are located directly under the high pressure area. With abundant sun, moderate air that comes from North Africa, and downward movement of air, temperatures here can rise to summer values. It is very likely that 25°C will be reached or exceeded, and it is not unlikely that record January temperatures will be achieved. Especially in the area around Murcia, mercury can reach record levels during January.

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In addition to the early warmth, the eastern coast and southern Spain in particular have been suffering from drought for months, and some areas even for years. In parts of Catalonia there has been no significant rainfall in 37 months. This means that reservoirs are currently only being filled to a very limited extent and that drought and water use measures are beginning to emerge again. In some areas, tanks are only 10% full, and this percentage is falling now, when it should normally be rising at this time of year. In southeastern Spain, this hydrological season (which began on October 1, 2023) only 1 mm of rain has fallen in some places. Weather models indicate no rain during the next ten days.

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Precipitation totals from a US weather model between now and February 9.  In southwestern Europe it remains (almost) completely dry according to this weather model
Precipitation totals from a US weather model between now and February 9. In southwestern Europe it remains (almost) completely dry according to this weather model © wetterzentrale.de

How does this affect our weather?

A high pressure area dominates much of Europe, and on the western side we will again encounter very soft air masses, especially from the weekend onwards. After a temporary drop on Friday and Saturday, temperatures will once again return to above 10 degrees Celsius from Sunday.

Because we are on the edge of the high pressure area, we have to take into account a southwesterly circulation movement that will cause a lot of clouds to blow over the low countries. So really sunny weather is not on the agenda.

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Megan Vasquez

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