Drinking water to cool off during these hot days in Palma. | miquel angel canellas


In the summer of 1994 there was a heat wave in Spain. In Murcia there was a high of 47.2C, which used to be the record for Spain. On the third of July that year, Mallorca recorded its highest ever temperature - 44.2C in Muro, until it was broken by Montuiri’s 44.5C in August 2022.

Yet despite this record temperature, there wasn’t actually a heat wave in Mallorca. As the met agency Aemet has pointed out, reporting of a heat wave occurrence can be exaggerated, while in 1994 it would have been most unusual. In the whole of the 1990s, there was only one heat wave in Mallorca - from August 5 to 7 in 1993.

Almost thirty years ago, what were they saying about this particularly high temperature in Mallorca? They weren’t saying a lot, other than it was particularly high. It was out of the ordinary. Yes, there had been a short heat wave the year before, but there wasn’t any real voicing of concern except about demands on air-conditioning suppliers. There wasn’t enough air-con, but as it then began to become more the norm, no one was especially exercised about the energy consumption and consequential emissions either. Oh days of comparative innocence.

The Muro 44.2 was “one of those things” and was evidence of something of a ten-year cycle. The years 1982 to 1984 had been hotter than usual. Two very hot summers in the ‘90s were cyclical phenomena. No one’s saying that now. From 2010 to 2019 there were seven heat waves in Mallorca. In 2020 there was one; 2021 there were two; 2022 there were three. It’s no longer a case of if there will be a heat wave, but of how many. Moreover, it is also a case of how much pressure the bar comes under to raise the record temperatures. Since 2019, 40C has been exceeded in Mallorca every summer. This regularity had never been known previously.

We know there are places on the planet which are much hotter. But we aren’t talking about other places. We are talking about Mallorca, where the summers have obviously always been hot but not so repeatedly hot as to create real risks for health. In this regard, it is perhaps surprising that Aemet doesn’t classify 40 degrees (104F) as a red alert, given that 40C represents a risk point. The highs have to be 42-43 to merit red, though last week, when revised data gave a maximum of 42.2C, there was no more than an amber alert. The met agency was quick to issue a red alert for this week.

Given the evidence of heat waves and of regularly higher temperatures as well as the evidence which shows that Mallorca’s summers over the past ten years or so have consistently been among the hottest on record, it is somewhat unnerving to realise that there are still political forces within our midst who deny climate change. Pedro Bestard, the leader of Vox at the Council of Mallorca, stated in an interview some days ago: “Well, we don’t think it’s climate change. We’re sure that this is a power factor for some companies who wish to take the world to a place where it’s in their interests.” And he’s the Council’s new vice-president for the environment.

He’s entitled to his opinion. Vox are entitled to their stance. But they aren’t that helpful in addressing issues that have been apparent (or should have been apparent) for years. In this regard, it surprises me that, in the context of the recent heat, anyone should be surprised or should be raising questions as a consequence of this heat. Many years ago, as in 2007, I asked what would happen “if, say, in ten or twenty years’ time, Mallorca is regularly notching up 40+ degrees in summer, the point at which the heat not only becomes intolerable, it becomes downright dangerous”. Well, Mallorca is now notching up this sort of temperature on a regular basis.

A factor which was being highlighted all those years ago was that at 40 degrees latitude, which is where Mallorca just about finds itself, the most dramatic effects of climate change are likely to be experienced. And if so, there were serious questions to be asked, such as those regarding tourism. Personally, I’m not convinced that the higher temperatures are much of a deterrence, as it can appear that visitors relish such temperatures, as though they are some sort of touristic trophy to be displayed on social media. But some will be deterred, while over the past decade or more the narrative about energy has moved on apace. As was argued by the now former Balearic government, energy sustainability (and sovereignty) isn’t just about renewables, it is also about seeking to reduce energy consumption. And how might that happen, what with all the demand on air-con systems unless there is vastly more investment and wherewithal for self-consumption?

Still, as far as the current heat is concerned, it may be reassuring to know that heat waves are more common in July than in August. But don’t go too early on the Big Heat. There could be more on the way.