While substantial rain has fallen, especially across fire-ravaged central and northern Portugal, these showers will not compensate the chronic lack of water.
The President of the Portuguese Met Office (IMPA) Miguel Miranda, said this week that the “November miracle we need is for a steady drizzle to fall during a very long time”.
But with more than 80 percent of the country in a state of severe drought, the weather chief said that current models forecast below average rainfall in the mid-term.
The Bishop of Lisbon, perhaps following on the calls for a miracle, this week issued a statement calling for prayer, with Dom Clemente calling on priests to pray for “the necessary rainfall” during Mass.
While the country waits for a “miracle” to break the drought, the government has in the meantime called on Portuguese to be much more sparing in their use of water and has told local authorities to limit the water they use to clean and irrigate towns and cities.
Portugal’s Environment Minister, João Matos Fernandes, in announcing the measures said “no-one must be mistaken” about the seriousness of the drought that is affecting the country. He said two or three days’ rain will not change the situation, adding that a campaign is to be launched to encourage the careful use of water by everyone.
The Government praised independent initiatives being taken by Town Halls, singling out the case in Nelas, where the council decreed the closure of municipal swimming pools until water levels had returned to satisfactory levels.
The Environment Minister forecast that he expected other Town Halls to follow suit, especially with the expected deterioration of the drought.
João Matos Fernandes added the sole priority of the Government is to ensure sufficient water for human consumption.
The latest monthly weather bulletin issued by the IPMA however paints a bleak picture of the current state of the climate in Portugal.
IPMA chief Miguel Miranda says he is unable to find examples where Portugal has seen the state of a drought deteriorate during the month of October.
He said that the rainfall recorded last month was 50 percent below existing averages, and in many cases, only 20 percent of average rainfall for October was registered.
The Met Office also revealed that yet another weather record was broken in October, being the hottest since 1931, when weather details were first logged.
The average temperature was said to be 3 degrees Celsius above normal, while average maximum temperatures soared to 5 degrees above the median.
The IPMA also said there were two heat waves between 1 and 16 and between 23 and 30 October in most of the country except the coastal areas.
This comes after September was found to be the driest month ever in
The six-month period from April to September was also said to be the second driest since records began, while the average maximum temperatures for this period were also the highest meteorologists had ever seen in Portugal. Average temperatures across the mainland were meanwhile the second highest they had ever been.
Back in May, a British study predicted that Portugal could be subject to “megadroughts” lasting for many years. According to climate models drawn up by researchers at Newcastle University in the study, entitled ‘Assessing the threat of future megadrought in Iberia’, the area could see a 15-year period of rainfall at less than half the average level.
Researchers selected a total of 15 different climate models used by leading scientific bodies around the world, including Nasa, the UK Met Office and the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology.
Writing in the International Journal of Climatology, they said: “All models project an intensification of drought conditions for the Douro, Tagus and Guadiana.”
However they strongly disagree on the magnitude of these changes.
“Some project small increases in drought conditions but most project multi-year droughts reaching up to (...) eight years of mean annual rainfall missing [over a 15-year period] (...) by the end of the century.”
According to a 424-page study published earlier this year by the European Environment Agency (EEA), titled ‘Climate change, impacts and vulnerability in Europe 2016’, cash-strapped Portugal has suffered monetary losses of 6.8 billion euros as a result of climate change between 1980 and 2013.
Southern and south-eastern Europe is forecast to be a climate change hotspot, as it is expected to face the highest number of adverse impacts, the EEA report reveals.
“This region is already experiencing large increases in heat extremes and decreases in precipitation and river flows, which have heightened the risk of more severe droughts, lower crop yields, biodiversity loss and forest fires”, researchers found, warning further that more frequent heatwaves and changes in the distribution of climate-sensitive infectious diseases are expected to increase risks to human health and well-being.
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.