The Portuguese Met Office (IPMA) has this week issued a statement on the extreme hot weather experienced this July, indicating that the month has seen temperatures rise well above those
usually recorded for this time of the year. Similarly, the hot weather has also prompted health services and civil protection authorities to issue warnings and advisories due to the excessive heat.
Temperature variations are gauged in terms of highs, lows and daily averages, with the Met Office revealing this week that Portugal had experienced values well above those normally registered for this time of the year.
The Met Office also listed ten towns and cities which had breached the 42 degrees Celsius mark this past month, with the highest recorded temperature so far being in the central Portugal city of Tomar, where the weather station registered 42.8.
Overall, one in four weather stations on mainland Portugal recorded a temperature of 40 degrees on at least one occasion over the past four weeks.
Tropical nights, or when thermometers fail to drop below 20 degrees, have also been common in July, with Portalegre in the northern Alentejo earlier this week failing to drop below 26.5 degrees, while Lisbon recorded a low of 25.7 degrees on Sunday.
The Met Office also explained that the current hot weather, especially with nights not cooling off sufficiently, has “resulted in thermal discomfort with more significant impacts being felt by more vulnerable members of the population.”
Despite the heat, national health services say they have not reported an increase in the number of people seeking hospitals or health centres, nor has there been a rise in the death rate.
National Health Board Director Francisco George reasoned that this could be due to a gradual rise in temperatures, with high-risk groups having the time necessary to acclimatise to the hotter weather.
Health officials over the weekend issued an advisory for people to take additional care as a result of the extra hot weather, and recommended that people protect themselves from the sun, especially during the critical period between 11am and 5pm.
The negative effects of the hot weather are particularly felt by children, the elderly and those suffering from chronic illnesses, with authorities calling on families and friends to be extra vigilant.
In the meantime, much of the country is set to remain under yellow or orange alert for the coming week, with the Mercury forecast to rise to around 40 degrees across much of inland Portugal. Forest fire alerts are also expected to remain at the highest levels, with windy, but dry and hot conditions expected at the start of August.
Portugal has in recent years broken a host of weather records.
December 2015 had been the second warmest December in Portugal since records began in 1931, while the whole of 2015 was the second warmest in the past 15 years, and the fourth driest.
Meanwhile, 2015 also recorded the hottest November in the last 34 years in Portugal, with a heat wave in some parts of the mainland, though the month will be remembered for the flooding across the Algarve which caused severe damage in places like Albufeira.
The hot weather, which made last month as the hottest June on record, has been common across the northern hemisphere, but Portugal seems to have been experiencing even greater variations in recent years.
Average temperatures in Portugal have in the last 40 years increased at a rate of 0.5 degrees per decade - twice as fast as globally - posing major dangers to the country, according to Filipe Duarte Santos, professor at the Faculty of Sciences of Lisbon University who, along with various entities, monitors climate change both nationally and internationally.
He recently forecast that climate changes in Portugal will be more frequent and will be accompanied by more intense droughts and “extreme precipitation” that will bring with it the risk of flooding and landslides.
“Portugal is more vulnerable to climate changes due to it having a relatively long coast with significant extensions of dunes and estuaries,” he told Lusa News Agency in 2015.
“Small enclosed beaches, which have a great landscape and touristic value, are especially vulnerable to a rise in average sea level.”
A study carried out by researchers from various universities, showed “systematic temperature increases that can reach three to seven degrees centigrade in summer, with stronger heating in the north and central interior and a strong increment in the frequency and intensity of heat waves” in mainland Portugal.
The study, titled ‘Portugal’s climate in the 20th and 21st centuries’, was carried out by the SIAM (Scenarios, Impacts and Adaptation Measures) project.