THE annual number of days of extreme heat, considered dangerous for human life, will increase between 200 and 500 per cent in the Mediterranean during this century, according to a report based on studies in 21 countries in Europe, including Spain, Africa and Asia.
Although France will be the country which will feel the rise in temperatures most, as they will go up by as much as 8º Celsius on some days, it will be the Mediterraenan coast, particularly Spain and the Balearics, and the coast of North Africa where the number of extremely hot days will increase most.
The report was published by the Geophysical Research Letters magazine, and revealed that the number of extremely hot days would increase by an average of 30 to 40 days a year in the Balearics, coasts of Murcia and Valencia, the south of Catalonia, the Ebro Valley, the Atlantic coast of Andalucia and some areas of Castilla and Leon.
There would be an increase of between 20 and 30 extremely hot days in Murcia and Valencia (inland), parts of south east Andalucia and large areas of Aragon, La Rioja and the south of Galicia.
The rest of the Peninsula will also feel the effects of the heat with an additional 20 extremely hot days a year in parts of Castilla-La Mancha, Extremadura, parts of Andalucia, the north of Galica and the Basque Country.
The report concludes that if the emissions of carbon dioxide, the chief cause of climate change, continue at the present rhythm, the number of extremely hot days will increase between 200 and 500 per cent a year, but if the emissions are reduced, the increase in these days, when the heat reaches the threshold of danger for human life, will be a maximum of 50 per cent.
The report indicates that the heatwave of summer 2003 caused 15'000 deaths in France and 2'000 in Italy, and establishes a link between a sharp increase in temperatures and an increase in mortality.
Apart from the risk to human health, the increase in extremely hot days will also have negative consequences for the economy of Mediterranean countries, for their water resources, agriculture and demand for energy.