Global warming: extreme weather conditions become the norm – Portugal

Posted June 13, 2022.

By Len Port

Summer has arrived in force. In addition to the drought during our normally wet winter, Portugal has been unusually warm, and the recent drought and heat looks set to get worse.

The drought began in November 2021. The resulting low levels in reservoirs have severely hampered hydroelectric power generation and limited the supply of irrigation water to farmers.

A systematic increase in summer temperatures is expected with an increase in the frequency, intensity and duration of heat waves in mainland Portugal. Conditions are expected to be more moderate in the Azores and Madeira.

Extreme conditions are increasingly becoming the norm all over the world at all times of the year. For example, in January, severe storms in northern Europe, including Germany, forced public transport to close, markets were flooded and authorities told residents to stay at home. A town in Western Australia recorded an impressive temperature of 50.7°C.

In February, parts of the United States, from New Mexico to New England, were pounded by so much snow and ice that schools had to close and thousands of flights had to be canceled. It was one of the coldest events in the southern state of Texas in several decades.

March was India’s hottest month in 122 years. A tropical cyclone has killed at least 50 people in Mozambique. Surprisingly, a heat wave hit Antarctica, causing temperatures to soar from around minus 50°C to 17.7°C, but only for a few days. This shocked scientists who described the spike as unprecedented in the coldest region of the planet.

In April, winds blew over the Philippines, killing 120 people. As of mid-April, the state of Alabama had received 115 tornado warnings, Mississippi 110 and Texas 104.

May brought record hot air to Portugal and Spain. Some temperatures exceeded 40°C and were the highest figures for Portugal in May since records began in 1931. France also had the hottest temperatures on record in May, as did Morocco with 45.7 °C recorded in the northwest of the country. A rare subtropical cyclone swept through Uruguay and Brazil.

So far in June, many temperatures in the Algarve have been 10 degrees above normal, meaning it felt more like July or August. And since almost the whole country is currently suffering from a severe drought, no rain is expected until autumn.

Climatologists say all of this underscores the reality of climate change due to human activity. In a world plagued by massive problems such as war, soaring fuel and food prices, poverty and hunger, it is difficult to stay focused on the climate crisis, but it is increasingly necessary to do so and to take more urgent action to reduce overheating.

In ordinary terms, it’s wise to keep sunscreen and a brimmed hat handy when you’re about to venture outside and have an umbrella on the beach.

Meanwhile, the danger of forest fires is still present in Portugal, the fourth most affected country in the world in terms of economic damage, especially in wooded and well-vegetated rural areas.

In winter this year, 1,741 forest fires had broken out and had destroyed 7,000 hectares by the end of February. That was more than enough to warn us all of the great care that needs to be taken this summer and fall.

Portuguese fire prevention and control authorities throughout the country are well prepared, but there is no way to be certain that forest fires will not again devastate large areas of the natural environment, destroying homes, killing residents and causing evacuations in the process. This is particularly egregious because most forest fires are caused by arsonists, or people carelessly lighting campfires or barbecues, or simply throwing cigarette butts in the wrong place.

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LPPort of Len is a journalist and author. Born in Ireland, his first written pieces were published while working at the Natural History Museum in London. Since then he has worked as a journalist, mainly in Hong Kong, Northern Ireland, South Africa and Portugal. As well as reporting hard news for some of the world’s leading news agencies, he has produced countless feature articles on all sorts of topics for a range of publications. Now living in southern Portugal, her books include travel guides and children’s stories. His ebooks – People in a special place and The Fatima Phenomenon – Divine Grace, Illusion or Pious Fraud? are available on Amazon.com and amazon.co.uk. His blog posts can be viewed at algarvenewswatch.blogspot.com

Teresa H. Sadler