Parts of Spain are on high alert amid ‘extreme’ May temperatures

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MADRID – Large parts of Spain were on alert on Friday as a wave of intense heat began to sweep across the country, with residents swollen through temperatures in May, the hottest place in two decades.

The hot, dry air carries dust from North Africa, pushing temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) to an average of 15 degrees above average in some parts of the country.

The state meteorological agency said they expected “unusual and extreme” temperatures to peak on Saturday.

“These will probably be among the warmest temperatures we’ve seen in May of the 21st century,” said Ruben del Campo, a spokesman for the agency.

By Friday, a handful of records had already been set. Temperatures in the southern Spanish city of JaĆ©n are 38.7 degrees Celsius (101.7 Fahrenheit) – 15 degrees higher than the seasonal average – on record in May. In the central city of Cuenca, daily lows of 19.5 Celsius (67.1 Fahrenheit) are two degrees higher than the previous May lows.

Although temperatures are expected to be lower than what Spanish meteorologists have defined as heat waves, what makes this episode singular is its durability, with night temperatures expected to be above 20 C (68 F) in many places.

High temperatures are forecast to push northeast in the coming days, with little relief expected until after Sunday.

The state Meteorological Agency said Friday it had warned four regions of the heat. The regions of Castilla-La Mancha, Extremadura and Madrid were under a yellow alert, meaning they were at risk, while southern Andalusia was under an orange alert, meaning a significant risk due to the intense heat. No region was under Red Alert, the highest level, consistent with extreme risk.

Del Campo has identified May heat as part of a larger pattern that has seen summer weather begin to arrive in Spain about a month earlier than in the 1980s. He was unequivocal about the reason.

“What’s behind all this?” Del Campo asked. “Climate change, obviously ethnographic, is caused by the emission of greenhouse gases associated with human activity.”

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