World weatherwatch: Iberia’s terral blows in with oppressive heat

Hot dry air from Africa nudged up the mercury and then came flash floods and thunderstorms

portugal peaked at more than 45°C
Horses in the Algarve are led away from a wildfire during August. Early in the month the temperature in Portugal peaked at more than 45°C. Photograph: Carlos Costa/AFP/Getty Images

— In the first week of August the heatwave conditions in Iberia broke up. Described in Spain as a terral wind, such oppressive heatwaves occur when hot, dry, air advances from north Africa. There was speculation that maximum temperature records could be broken, perhaps reaching 48°C (118.4°F) inland. But the mercury only reached a peak of 45.4°C, in Évora, Portugal.

The relief from the heat was partly thanks to the arrival of a cold front, along which thunderstorms developed.

The storms also reached into the similarly sweltering south of France, causing temperatures to drop hugely and stay closer to the seasonal average.

However, the heavy downpours brought by the thunderstorms caused severe flash flooding, requiring the evacuation of about 1,600 people from the Gard region of France, as the Ardèche and Cèze rivers burst their banks.

‘holy fire’ burning at lake elsinore, california
The ‘Holy Fire’ burning at Lake Elsinore, California, on 10 August. Photograph: Kevin Warn/Zuma/Rex/Shutterstock


The devastating California wildfire season has also continued. The so-called Holy Fire forced the evacuation of more than 21,000 people around the Orange county area. This fire was suspected to have been due to arson, but its spread was enhanced by blustery winds and hot summer temperatures drying out thousands of acres.

by Judith McConnell | The Guardian