For many people it is that the weather in Spain which is one of the main attractions when looking for a new country to live in. However, despite the fact that the vast majority of people automatically assume that all Spanish weather is hot and humid this is not always the case and there are distinct variations in different parts of the country.
The weather in Spain is a major issue for many people and while it can be very enjoyable for a short break, thousands of people who move over there will find it very different when they have to live in the atmosphere and temperature on a daily basis!
How does the weather in Spain vary?
When you look at Spain it can be divided into five different climate areas which offer very different temperatures and very different weather.
Continental Mediterranean climate
The Continental Mediterranean climate is by far and away the best known weather climate associated with Spain and does actually take up the vast majority of the central area of the country. This particular type of climate is heavily influenced by the fact it is away from the sea and therefore does not normally benefit from its cooling influence. The winters are cold and dry although the summers can be very hot and they are also predominantly very dry.
The oceanic climate is very much associated with northern Spain with the mountain range separating the central Spanish weather from the northern peak. The oceanic climate is predominantly associated with a much tighter grouping of temperatures with winters not known to be exceptionally cold while the summer season is not extremely hot, as in other areas of Spain. This particular area of Spain is often referred to as “Green Spain”.
The semi-arid or arid Mediterranean climate is the one which is least common in Spain, but perhaps best known, and is specifically associated with the south-east of the country. In simple terms the semi-arid or arid Mediterranean weather is strongly associated with very low rainfall and often takes in some of the more desert like climates of the world. While these are often the areas which attract most tourists there can be difficulties with water supply and extreme temperatures.
The Mediterranean climate predominantly takes in the east coast of Spain down towards an extended tip on the south-west of the country and does contain a number of subtropical climate areas. Perhaps the best-known city in this region is Barcelona where warm to hot dry summers can be experienced together with very wet winters.
The subtropical climate in Spain is characterised by relatively warm winters which contrasts with the hot summer seasons. These are the areas of the country which rarely see frost or snow and because of the particular climate, palm trees and the like are very common. The definition of a subtropical climate is an area where the temperature is over 50°F for at least eight months of the year.
Mountainous areas of Spain
Adding to the spice which is the Spanish weather there are significant mountain ranges in the north-east and north-west of the country and a number of smaller ranges in the centre of Spain. There are also a couple of smaller mountainous regions in the south east of the country where the weather is very much different to that which you would normally associate with Spain.
Situated on the Mediterranean coast, Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain with a population of around 1.6 million people. The weather in and around Barcelona can vary between 9.1°C in January rising to a peak of 24.2°C in July and falling back to 10.0°C in December. The period June to September is the more popular time for tourist visitors when the temperature is at its highest. The average annual temperature in Barcelona is around 16°C.
Situated in northern Spain, Bilbao is the largest of the Basque country cities with a population of just over 300,000 people. When you take into account the surrounding areas the population increases to around 1 million and is one of Spain’s best-known regions. The weather in Bilbao starts at around 8.6°C in January rising to a peak of 21.2°C in August and falling to 8.8°C in December. The average temperature in Bilbao over the year is around 14.6°C.
Weather in Ibiza
Well-known as one of the party islands of the Balearic Islands, Ibiza has a relatively small population of just over 100,000 people with Ibiza town itself attracting the most settlers with a population of just over 37,000 people. Those who have visited Ibiza will be well aware of the weather in the region which begins at around 11.9°C in January peaking at around 26.1°C in August before falling back to around 13.6°C in December. The average temperature in Ibiza over the year is around 18.4°C offering the very mild winters which attract so many visitors to the region.
Weather in Madrid
Madrid is situated in central Spain, is the capital of the country and by far and away the largest city in the Spain. The population of the city, which is only beaten by Greater London and Berlin, is just over 3.2 million although when taking in the surrounding areas this rises to just over 7 million people. The fluctuation in temperatures in and around Madrid is fairly marked with January starting around 5°C rising into a peak of 24.7°C in July and falling to 5.4°C in December – the average temperature over the year is just under 14°C.
Valencia is the third-largest city in Spain with a population of just over 800,000 people and situated on the Costa del Azahar, just below the centre line of the country. The region offers yet another variation of temperatures starting at around 10.9°C in January and peaking at around 24.8°C in August before falling back to around 11.7°C in December. The average temperature over the year is around 17.4°C.
Global warming in Spain
While the vast majority of people may well associate Spain with hot weather and very mild winters, the truth is that the country offers one of the most varied weather patterns in the world (including snow!). The ice caps on the Pyrenees mountain range for example have for some time helped to feed rivers in the region during the hot and humid summer seasons although they are slowly disappearing as a consequence of global warming.
It is believed that the Pyrenees Mountains have lost almost 90% of their ice cover over the last century and while some analysts believe they could have disappeared forever at the end of the current century, some actually believe it could happen within the next 30 years. It can be difficult to understand how important the glaciers covering the mountainous areas of Spain are to the regions which experience hot summers and relatively mild winters.
How will the weather in Spain change in the future?
While all forecasts regarding climate change and temperature changes are very difficult to say the least, there is a definite feeling that Spain is one of the countries which will be more prone to higher temperatures in the future. A number of reports over the last few years have forecast potential rises of between 6°C and 7°C over the next century although the more widely respected surveys appear to suggest an increase of between 3°C and 4°C. Even if the best case scenario turns out to be correct, this has potentially massive implications for Spain and its various regions.
When you consider that temperatures in Spain have risen by around 1.5°C over the last hundred years, against a worldwide average of 0.95°C and a European average of 0.6°C, it is easy to see how difficult it could be for Spain in the future. All areas of the country are already being affected by the gradual increase in temperatures from the glaciers in the Pyrenees to the baking hot lower regions.
The average temperature in Spain is expected to rise by around 0.4°C in the winter time over the next decade, and by 0.7°C in the summertime over the same period. There are already significant signs of lower rainfall throughout the country which is starting to have an impact upon water supplies and living standards.
Will global warming affect the Spanish economy?
Unfortunately for the Spanish government and the Spanish population it seems that the ever increasing temperatures across Spain, and the melting ice caps, could have a significant impact upon the future shape and direction of the economy. Aside from the fact we could actually see animals and birds change their migration paths and actually move to different areas of the country, as and when the temperatures increase, there is also the potential for local economies to suffer.
There is no doubt that the Spanish government will need to look towards a reduction in CO2 gases across the country, across Europe and across the world. However, progress in this particular field has been very slow to say the least and while the problem gets ever closer for Spain it seems that many other governments around the world are not as concerned.
Moving to Spain for its milder winters
There is no doubt that one of the main attractions which Spain has for many expats is the weather and the generally milder winters in the more popular regions of the country. However, as we suggested above, it can be very enjoyable to spend two weeks holiday a year in Spain in these temperatures but living there day after day can be very different to say the least!
Working in the Spanish heat
While those from outside Spain may well mock the Spanish siesta they will soon find that this is a vital element of everyday life in Spain as temperatures reach often unbearable highs and can significantly impact upon efficiency in the workplace. Even though air conditioning systems are commonplace across the hot areas of Spain, even these can have a limited impact on the scorching hot days.
Life in the Spanish heat
For those living on the Spanish coast where the temperatures can reach unbearable heights, you would assume that the winds from the sea would reduce the impact of the heat. However, if you check out the Spanish forum you will see that many people are complaining that these winds simply fan the heat and can often make it unbearable.
As we touched on above, the impact of global warming is set to hit Spain particularly hard over the next century and could affect the supply of water in some of the hot regions of the country and ultimately the infrastructure.
Spain has been one of the more popular destinations for expats around the world and ultimately it will continue to be so for some time to come. However, the climate in Spain and the structure of the economy may well change significantly over the next 20 to 30 years as global warming comes into play. It is vital that you do your homework before moving to any country although Spain itself has a number of unique issues which need consideration. Could you stand the heat?
While the weather in Spain does differ enormously from the north-west to the south-east coast there is no doubt that many people still hold the common conception that the country is hot all year round. It will surprise many people to learn that there are decisions to be made and you need to choose an area to suit your needs, the climate you are after and the local economy.
It is worthwhile remembering that two weeks in Spain, and the heat in various tourist resorts, can be very enjoyable and relaxing when on holiday. However, could you work or even enjoy a good night sleep in that environment if you have come from somewhere with totally different weather patterns?
As you will see from the data contained within this article there are significant temperature changes in regions throughout the year, and there are ultimately significant changes in climate from the north-west to the south-east. It is vital that you do your homework to ensure that you know what you’re letting yourself in for and which area of the country would suit you best.