Map showing the sea temperature. / puertos del estado / VIDEO: ATLAS

Why is the sea so warm on the Costa del Sol this summer, and does it matter?

The temperature of the water has reached 28C this year, whereas the average is normally 23C

JUAN SOTO Malaga

The continual episodes of heat in Malaga since the start of this summer are also affecting the temperature of the sea. Anyone who has been on a beach this year will have noticed that the water seemed unusually warm.

Jesús Riesco, director of the Aemet weather agency in Malaga, says this is because the atmospheric air mass is very warm, and has been since June. “Because the air mass over the sea is so hot, the water warms up as well,” he expained.

Recorded data shows that at 10am on Thursday this week the sea water was 27C (it went up to 28C later) whereas the average for this time of year is 23C. “That’s a very high figure,” says Riesco.

There is no doubt that this excessive heat affects marine life. José Carlos Baez of the Spanish Oceanography Institute said all species are being affected and it can kill sea urchins and different types of seaweed which are essential for marine life.

Concern over invasive species

Even worse, he says, the warm water is causing the spread of 'rugulopterix okamurae', invasive algae from Asia which are putting the biomass of the whole Mediterranean coast at risk.

“In Cadiz it is already like a plague that is taking over the sea and it is becoming common in the Estepona and Fuengirola area,” he says.

On the eastern side of the province, the warm sea favours the appearance of 'enteromorpha linza', algae which live on the surface and turn the water green. Although this is not an invasive species, it causes organisms to lose their natural habitat and be displaced.

Torrential rain

The unusually warm sea temperature can also cause episodes of torrential rain. Although it is not the only factor involved, it contributes to the situation if conditions are right. “And if there is a cold spell, there’s even more danger of this happening,” Riesco says.

He doesn’t expect the sea temperature to vary much this month, and says the first storms could occur in the second half of August, especially in inland areas.

“And at the end of the month, if there are easterly winds and the sea water is warm, there could be intense rain on the coast,” he says.