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Portugal - Climate

Eight locations in Portugal have hit their highest-ever temperatures on 02 August 2018 amid a heat wave across Europe. Portugal's weather agency said that eight places in the center, south and east of the country experienced record-breaking local temperatures, as the Iberian peninsula bears the brunt of a heat wave across the European continent. World Weather Attribution (WWA), a network of scientists in six institutions, was established to provide near-real-time analysis of possible links between climate change and extreme weather events. The summer of 2018 was remarkable in northern Europe.

The warming climate played a substantial role in the devastating wildfires around the world in 2017. Southern Europe and western parts of Canada and the US were devastated by wildfires this year. And they were not the only ones - it seemed like much of the world was ablaze. And this could be the new normal.

Portugals worst ever forest fires in the summer of 2017 killed more than 60 people and injured hundreds. The Civil Protection Agency's full firefighting contingent operates only during the traditional peak wildfire season, which runs from 01 July to 30 September. In October, its firefighting assets are reduced by half. Critics say the state of readiness must be more flexible, especially when Portugal is gripped by drought and its weather patterns are affected by climate change.

Raging forest fires in Portugal killed at least 61 people, many of them trapped in their cars as flames swept over a road, in what Prime Minister Antonio Costa on 18 June 2017 called "the biggest tragedy of human life that we have known in years". At least 16 people were killed when their vehicles were engulfed by flames on a road between the towns of Figueiro dos Vinhos and Castanheira de Pera.

In a second wildfire incident three months later, the Portuguese civil protection agency on 17 October 2017 said wild fires that swept across northern and central Portugal left 41 people dead. "Most of the victims were killed in their cars, but we also found them inside their houses," said Jose Carlos Alexandrino, town mayor of Oliveira do Hospital.

The fires were being fanned by wind gusts of up to 90 kilometers (55 miles) per hour as Hurricane Ophelia moved north off the coast of Spain towards Ireland. Ophelia is the most powerful hurricane recorded so far east in the Atlantic and the first since 1939 to travel so far north. Though Ophelia was downgraded to a storm before it hit the coast of Ireland, schools there were closed as the country braced for violent winds and rain, with the weather service warning people to remain indoors.

A scorching heat wave nicknamed "Lucifer" swept through southern Europe, wreaking havoc as temperatures soared above 40 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit), from Spain in the west to the Balkan states in the east. Crops wilted, water sources evaporated and wildfires have been raging.

Portuguese children afflicted by forest fires are crowdsourcing funds to sue European countries, accusing them of failing to deal with climate change and endangering their lives. On 25 September 2017 GLAN Global Legal Action Network GLAN started a crowdfunding campaign to help bring a potentially ground-breaking case. GLAN was helping six Portuguese children affected by devastating forest fires this summer take all of the major greenhouse gas emitting governments in Europe to the European Court of Human Rights. It would be argued that the countries signed up to the court must significantly strengthen their emissions cutting policies and commit to keeping their fossil fuel reserves in the ground.

Professor Filipe Duarte Santos of the Lisbon Universitys Faculty of Sciences, warned in August 2014 that Portugal would be among the European countries most vulnerable to climate change. He suggested that the country in the future will suffer from more extreme weather events like heat-waves and droughts, which in turn will lead to more forest fires and reduced agricultural output.

There is a substantial increase in meteorological fire risk in the country, both in severity and in length of the fire season, particularly in the Continent and Madeira. The estimated general increase in the frequency of heavy precipitation events is likely to increase the number and severity of floods, particularly in the northern part of the Iberian Peninsula. Decreases in the productivity of wheat, maize and rice are likely. Productivity and quality of wine is likely to be variable acording to the region.

Portuguese observations are consistent with a pattern of global warming and rates of warming since the 1970s are above the global mean. Heat waves became more frequent. Future warming is more pronounced in the continent and more moderate in the Azores. More frequent and pronounced heat waves are expected. The change in the precipitation regime is more severe in the continent (less annual precipitation and longer periods without rain) and in Madeira (less rain in winter) than in the Azores.

Climate-related changes over the 21st century will include an acceleration in Sea Level Rise (SLR), further rise in sea surface temperature, more extreme weather events and storm surges, altered precipitation and ocean acidification. Within coastal zones these climate-related changes can be expected to have a range of impacts. Rising sea levels will increase the flood-risk and erosion along the coast but may also impact freshwater availability or result in an accelerated loss of coastal eco-systems.

The first paper that addressed climate change and its impacts in Portugal was published in 1987 in Portugaliae Physica. A model integrating the perturbed carbon cycle and the atmosphere and biosphere responses to a changing climate was developed. It projected that CO2 concentration would double relative to pre-industrial values by 2080 leading to an increase in the lower atmosphere global average temperature of 2.5 C. The assessment of the impacts of this climate change scenario for Portugal indicated potentially negative effects in the biosphere and in particular an increase in the risk of desertification, especially in the southern part of the country.

The average values that characterize the climate of a given region, depend on the time interval used and do not present the same results when comparing one year with a decade or a century. Moreover, it is important to have long series of data to study the climate variations and trends.

A Temperate Climate is often difficult to define, and then often, by default, it is defined by what it is not. It is not tropical. It is not polar. It is just in between. It is a place where there are typically four well defined seasons. Scientifically, temperate climates fall in the range of latitudes between 23.5 degrees and 66.5 degrees. The north temperate zone extends from the Tropic of Cancer to the Arctic Circle, and the south temperate zone extends from the Tropic of Capricorn to the Antarctic Circle.

The climate in Portugal is very pleasant with long, hot summers and mild winters. Lisbon is one of the mildest European capitals. Portugal is considered one of the warmest European countries; the average annual temperature in mainland Portugal is 13 C (55 F) in the north and 18 C (64 F) in the south.

Spring is cool to warm (between 6C and 28C), with plenty of sunshine but also some showers. The month with the most unpredictable weather is April. Summer months are mostly sunny, dry and hot with a light breeze and temperatures ranging from 16C to 38C. Residents expect very hot weather from July to August. Autumn is mild and unsettled with temperatures between 8C and 23C. Winters are typically rainy and cool with some sunny days (temperatures between 3 C and 18 C), and the average temperature is usually 12 C. Snowfall is a very rare occurrence. Lisbon briefly witnessed snow on 29 January 2006 and 28 January 2007.

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