It’s been hot across Europe recently. Of course, in Spain we’re used to it. But even here the temperatures have been pushing our limits of tolerance and the capacity of air conditioning systems too.

Now we’re not only responsible for our own Spanish weather, we’re being held responsible for that in the UK too. The weather has broken there now but they did experience a burst, of what was almost Spanish weather, a few weeks ago.

Apparently the soaring temperatures hitting the UK were as a result of ‘Spanish Plume’. Spanish Plume or Penacho Ibérico in Spanish, is a plume of warm air that moves from the middle of Spain across Europe.

Not content with making our own citizens frazzle, Spain exports very warm air as part of a southerly airflow. Unfortunately for the UK this warm air only temporarily makes you feel as though you’re in a tropical beach resort. As soon as the hot air meets cooler air from the Atlantic, then the thunderstorms start.

If the UK blames Spain, Spain likewise has a scapegoat. When exceptionally hot weather hits Spain, as it did in May, it has travelled across from North Africa as a massive ridge of high pressure.

Take note of the warnings

On Tuesday 7th July, the temperature in Murcia city reached 43.1ºC. Murcia was one of the cities in Spain to be on orange alert, Cordoba had the privilege of being on red. A yellow warning is a minor alert, orange is high alert and red is maximum alert.

We can be tempted to make light of severe heat warnings, but there is a real risk, particularly to the young and elderly.  Very hot weather is, in fact, responsible for more deaths than any other type of adverse weather, even the cold.

A heatwave in 2003 in France was responsible for the deaths of thousands of elderly people.  The extent of the death toll was only revealed when one of France’s funeral directors estimated that an additional 13,600 people died in comparison to normal.

Excessive heat puts extra stress on your body. If you are already suffering with some kind of ailment then this can be enough to cause a heart attack and death. The elderly do not always notice the effects of dehydration and some medications such as those used to treat Parkinson’s can increase the effect of extreme heat.

The high death toll in France was partly blamed on the number of elderly people living in on their own in unventilated apartments. A social issue as much as one related to the weather conditions.

What happens to us when it gets hot?

Our normal core temperature is around 37ºC to 38ºC.  If our body heats up above that to 39ºC or 40ºC then our muscles start to slow down and we become tired. If we heat up even more, then heat exhaustion is likely and above 41ºC the body starts to shut down and a risk of organ failure is likely. The body isn’t even able to sweat because the blood flow to the skin stops too.

 Heatstroke happens at any temperature over 40ºC and requires medical help. Applying ice packs to the groin and armpits can help as there are crucial arteries here. Much depends on how long body heat has been elevated.

More of this to come?

Discussions about the weather getting warmer as a result of climate change are nothing new. May’s and June/ July’s unusual temperatures in Spain have been taken, by some, to be yet more evidence that our climate has changed for good.

We have been warned to expect summer-type weather to start earlier and earlier. In the meantime, just make sure that you keep your Spanish home cool, make the most of the early morning and evening and avoid the mid-day sun at all costs.