The Heat is On

Lanzarote sweltered along with the rest of southern Europe last month after the “Lucifer” heatwave brought record temperatures to the Mediterranean, causing a number of deaths.

Temperatures peaked at 39.5℃ on Lanzarote”

Southern Europe saw temperatures regularly rise above 40 degrees centigrade, with six deaths in Italy and Romania attributed to the heat. In Italy, the heatwave was named “Lucifer”, after the biblical archangel who was condemned to eternity in the flames of hell.

The heatwave followed an exceptionally dry and hot July, which saw immense wildfires in Portugal claim the lives of 60. A smaller wildfire was recorded in Gran Canaria, and local authorities have issued fire alerts.

Lanzarote and the Canaries also suffered high temperatures during August. At 2pm on the 7th of that month, the weather station at Arrecife Airport recorded a maximum temperature of 39.5 degrees, and this stifling heat was accompanied by a calima.

A calima generally occurs when the prevailing north-eastern alisio winds that bring fine, breezy weather to the island weaken, allowing masses of air from the African mainland to arrive from the south-east. This air is generally hot and brings atmospheric dust from the Sahara.

The recent calimas could also be an indirect result of the Lucifer heatwave, which appears to have weakened the Azores anti-cyclone that brings the alisio winds.

The extent of the heatwave, and the fact that similar heatwaves have been recorded in 2003 and 2006, have led to speculation that we are seeing the effects of global warming.

Scientific research commissioned by the European Commission recently stated that deaths due to extreme weather in Europe could increase 50-fold from an estimated 3,000 per year recently to 152,000 by the end of this century – if global warming is not reined in.

Watch the Wind

Weather conditions on Lanzarote are strongly influenced by wind direction. The prevailing north easterly wind generally brings fine, windy weather, which guarantees that the island rarely gets as hot as cities on mainland Spain. A south-eastern wind often brings calimas, those annoying dust storms that cut visibility and make you feel itchy and irritable.

Stormy weather, on the other hand, frequently comes from the southwest, with unstable weather conditions in the mid-Atlantic bringing rain and strong winds that generally hit the western Canaries first.