Temperatures in Spain
Why the temperatures in Spain are the envy of Europe
When you ask most visitors what is the main reason for visiting Spain most will probably say the excellent Spanish weather, for the majority its the long sunny days that tempt us most, however its not all wall to wall sunshine as the climate in Spain does actually yeild some wild and varied temperature changes. It is of course the summer months when visitors are a plenty to Spain, which has an enviable climate mostly warm dry and sunny, and although the country does undoubtedly have one best overall climates in the world you may be surprised by some of the temperature extremes recorded on the mainland and the islands.
The total annual sunshine hours vary from around 1.700 in the north to some 3000 in the south and the canaries. The official lowest recorded temperature in Spain was in Estany Gento in Lerida at a cool -32-C in 1956, although experts will tell you that that could be lower then -40-C in the Pyrenees. I personally have been present during blizzards in the Sierra Nevada mountain range of Andalucia where temperatures fell below -18. The record for the highest temperature goes to Ecija in the province of Seville deep in central Andalucia in the south with an incredible 47.C, no wonder why the Spanish refer to tis village as the ” Sarten de Andalucia ” The Frying Pan of Andalucia. It is quite normal for temperatures in Seville and surrounding countryside to reach 40C in the summer, add to that the hot dry Spanish terral winds that blow through over the countryside and you can understand why the general population of these areas tend to flock to the nearest coastal area and the beaches at every opportunity.
The sun in the northernmost reaches of Spain reaches a height of 69.5 on the horizon on the summer solstice.
In Tarifa, Spain’s southernmost point, it reaches 77.5. On the winter solstice it’s 22.5 and 30.5, respectively. This means, clouds apart, a significant difference in sun received. Bilbao airport receives 1,525 hours, Costa de La Luz from Huelva to Cadiz around 3000 hours. If one applies the rule of thumb of a decrease in average temperature of 0.65ºC every 100m in altitude ascended, there exists a difference in temperature of some 22ºC between the freezing peaks of Mulhacen, the ceiling of the Sierra Nevada at 3,478m, and semi-tropical Granada coast just 40km apart, -all things being equal, which of course they never are.
Thus, while the average temperature of much of the Mediterranean coast is some 15ºC close to the world average temperatures above 2500m are below freezing. The coldest stretch of coast in the winter is in Guipuzcoa with an average of 8ºC. The warmest is the coast of most of Andaluca with 13ºC. The valleys of the Sistema Iberica suffer the highest numbers of frost during the year, with places such as Calamocha and Molina de Aragon with an average of 120 frosts per year. Similarly, Reinosa in the Cordillera Cantábrica at 950m above sea level has an average of 90 days of frost.
On peaks above 2,500m in the Pyrenees, Picos de Europa, Sistema Central and Ibérico and Sierra Nevada it snows between 90 and 120 days a year. In the latter ranges, snow is often present October to June in the highest and shadiest spots, though it only remains all the year round in the glaciers of the Pyrenees. Spain is a temperate country with average temperatures sea level of between 14º-20ºC.
Mediterranean Spain – Which runs from the north west of Catalonia in the north to the province of Cadiz on the southern tip of Andalucia. The
Mediterranean coast has high sunshine levels, from 6 hours per day in the winter to 12 hours per day in summer. Winters are mild and much warmer than central Spain. Rain in Spain is very rare from June to August although the northern Mediterranean coast may be liable to occasional heavy downpours.
In the south, there can occasionally occur a very hot wind from North Africa ( Sirroco winds ) and the Terral winds which blow across Spain from the north heating up as it travels south, thankfully the sea breezes generally stop temperatures from rising too high which are usually around 10 degrees cooler then inland during the hottest months of July and August.
Central Spain and the Southern Atlantic coast has a generally low rainfall though winter snow can be heavy on the sierras. Summers are generally hot, especially in the Guadalquivir valley of Northern Andalucia running out to Seville where some of the highest temperatures are recorded Sunshine levels average 5 hours per day in winter and 12 hours per day in summer. Central Spain and the Atlantic cost can be notably windy with the winds being cold if coming from snow covered sierras.
North and North West Spain can be influenced by depressions from the Atlantic, particularly in the autumn and winter, making this the wettest and cloudiest part of Spain. Sunshine levels average 3 hours per day during the winter and 8 hours per day in the summer. Summer temperatures are lower than other parts of Spain although the days are sunny and pleasant. The weather is very much like the UK and other northern EEC countries. You will undoubtedly have long sunny days during the summer in the North of Spain, likewise you could easily find that a depression of the Atlantic brings a few days of rain with the temperature dropping to around 12 C until the weather stabilizes.
The climate in Spain is incredibly diverse and is largely affected by its altitude and the surrounding sea. Spain is one of the most mountainous counties in Europe and has two oceans (the Mediterranean and Atlantic) on both sides of it. There is also a huge difference between the northern and southern climate.
Spanish summers can get very hot, especially inland. The average temperatures are at least 30°C. Coastal areas enjoy cool breezes that bring temperatures down to a more bearable level. During the summer there’s an average 11/12 hours of sunshine per day and it hardly rains at all in the south , hence making it such a popular all year round popular holiday destination for so many visitors to Spain , it is also quite normal not to see rain of any significance for at least 5 months a year.
Autumn along with Spring is a great time to visit Spain; the landscape is invariably greener, even in the south, the sea stays warm having been heated up during the summer months with average air temperatures of around 28 °C. It’s only in late November that temperatures start to fall to around 20 °C. Heading towards the winter, as the hour changes, daily sunshine reduces to an average of 6 hours, again anther reason why winter tourism is still as popular as ever with many northern European travellers.
During the winter, coastal temperatures hover at about 17 °C. Although sunny and warm during the day, it can feel very cold at night. Inland, it gets seriously colder, especially in mountainous areas around the Pyrenees, Madrid and Granada. However whilst the north of Spain may be experiencing low temperatures off 9C a short two hour flight to the Canary Islands and your back up to a warm and inviting 25C. one reason why these Islands have become of the Europe’s top winter holiday destinations.
Late spring, in anticipation of summer, is a magical time in Spain. As the days get longer, we get warm settled weather, with average temperatures rising to about 21 °C inland and about 24 °C on the Southern coast. There’s an average of 11 hours sun per day. The countryside is in full bloom, the Easter fairs are under way and there is a colourful and exciting vibe in most towns and Villages throughout Spain.