The rising frequency of dry winters on the Iberian peninsula has major implications for food production in Spain and Portugal
Spain and Portugal are experiencing their driest period for 1,200 years, according to research published in Nature Geoscience, with major implications for supplies of olives, grapes, oranges, tomatoes and other produce.
Most of the rainfall on the Iberian peninsula occurs in winter, but a high pressure system called the Azores high can block wet weather fronts, the Guardian reported. Extremely large Azores highs were found to cut average monthly rainfall by a third during winter.
Researchers found that winters featuring “extremely large” Azores highs have experienced a dramatic increase in frequency, from one in ten prior to 1850, to one in four since 1980 - a rise attributable to manmade climate crisis.
The Azores high is anticipated to continue expanding, intensifying drought on the peninsula, until global carbon emissions are cut to net zero.
“[Our findings] have big implications for the water resources that are available for agriculture and other water intensive industries or for tourism,” said the research team’s Dr Caroline Ummenhofer, based at the US’s Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. “It doesn’t bode well.”
In Spain, rainfall has been declining by 5-10mm per year since 1950, the Guardian reported, with a further 10-20 per cent fall expected by 2100.
Due to water shortages, a 30 per cent drop in olive production is anticipated in southern Spain by the end of the century, while a drop in grape production of 25-99 per cent is predicted by 2050.