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Jesús Riesco, director of Aemet's Malaga weather centre, under a cloudy sky. Salvador Salas
Head of Aemet in Malaga: 'We need twice as much rain to reach a normal hydrological year'

Head of Aemet in Malaga: 'We need twice as much rain to reach a normal hydrological year'

SUR sat down with Jesús Riesco, the local director of Spain's state weather agency, for his assessment of the current drought situation in the province and what the outlook looks like

Ignacio Lillo

Tuesday, 2 April 2024, 13:50

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The Aemet forecasts of downpours during Easter week were correct, and left even more rain deposited than expected in some parts of Malaga province. Now that the weather has calmed, and with the prospect of warmer temperatures this week, the local director of Spain's state weather agency in Malaga, Jesús Riesco, has given SUR his assessment of the current drought situation following the passage of storm Nelson.

What do the weather models say about rainfall this April?

For the time being, the next two weeks do not look like we will get any rain. In general, the month of April does not produce anything significant. This week there will be hardly any rain in the province, and possibly not next week either. Some rain could fall on Sunday, but it will not be significant.

This Easter it has rained well in the province.

Yes, it has rained a lot and it has rained across the board. It is a relief from the drought. In the month of March it has rained a little more than twice as much at Malaga Airport than usual. 143mm has been collected, of which, in the eight days between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, 95mm was collected. The normal for this month is 66mm.

March rains

To what extent is this normal? There are theories that speak of a shift of fronts from the beginning to the end of winter and spring...

This has only happened in the last few years, there are still very few of them, it is not something that can be considered as something that will definitely happen in the future. It needs to be observed over the next few years.

How many weeks like this do we need need to reach an optimal level of reserves in the reservoirs?

We don't get involved in the reservoir issues. Right now, speaking only of Malaga city at the airport (because we won't have the provincial data for several days) adding up the first three months of this year, we are right on average. The normal rainfall in these three months is 187mm, and 193mm has fallen. The thing is that they have been distributed very unevenly, as in March it has fallen a lot, and in January and February, much less than normal. But in the hydrological year we are still well below normal.

Recovery possible?

How are we doing right now?

We are about halfway through, more or less.

So we need twice as much rain to get to a normal year?

Yes, of course. What happens is that the hydrological year that began on 1 October will end on 30 September, and now we are entering the months in which it is more difficult to collect a lot of water. So the deficit is going to remain. At least these rains have been very good to alleviate the critical situation, but it doesn't mean that we are going to get out of drought completely.

How many years will it take to recover?

Maybe we don't need that much time, it all depends on how the autumn turns out. The problem we have had is that the last two autumns have been very dry. But if we get one of the good autumns in Malaga, with several situations of droughts and so on, maybe we could get out of the drought in just one autumn. But in what is left of the hydrometeorological year, until 30 September, it will be difficult to get out of the drought, because now we are entering months when it doesn't usually rain. It would be very rare for it to rain enough in April and May to balance out what hasn't rained in the months that are normally the wettest.

Last year it happened, and in April and May we had good accumulations...

Yes, it rained a lot more than normal, but we are not talking about figures like now, when 200mm fell in March. Then, around 50mm fell, but if the normal figure is 20mm, so it rained twice as much as usual, but in months that were already dry. It is as if 10mm fell in August: it is 10 times more than normal. In the end, it hardly contributes to the total.

The conclusion I draw from your words is that there has been a slight improvement to get out of the critical situation, but there is still a long way to go?

Exactly. We have indeed emerged from a critical situation, but we are still in the midst of a drought.

Can this be the worst period of drought in recent history? Or was it worse in 1995?

I think this may be even longer than 1995, in terms of the number of years and the severity of the drought. These are the two major reference periods in terms of intense and long-lasting droughts.

We know for sure that it gets hotter every year...

Yes, that goes without saying.

But is it raining less?

It seems to be the case, but it is not yet statistically significant. As for the future, what the climate models predict is that it looks like it will rain less in general in southern Spain, for the rest of the century, and with a marked trend towards the end of the century, with between 10 and 20% less rain.

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