Spain Announces New Department to Study Effects of Very Hot Weather on Health

A woman crosses the street with a sun umbrella
A woman crosses the street with a sun umbrella in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, June 24, 2023. Temperatures in Madrid rose to around 35 degrees centigrade Saturday with hotter weather expected in the coming days. (AP Photo/Paul White)

By JENNIFER O’MAHONY Associated Press

MADRID (AP) — Spain sweltered in its first official heat wave of the year on Monday as the government
announced a new department to investigate and alleviate the effects of extreme temperatures on human

The state weather agency, AEMET, said temperatures were predicted to hit 44 degrees Celsius (111 degrees
Fahrenheit) in the country’s south during the hot spell, expected to last until Thursday, and noted that
heat waves have become more common during the month of June over the last 12 years.

Ecological Transition Minister Teresa Ribera said the country’s rising temperatures put vulnerable
populations at risk, and more work is needed to understand how to prepare for longer, hotter summers.
“We must investigate what happens to our bodies in response to the effects of climate change, in order
to mitigate the consequences on our health,” Ribera said.

The proposal to create the new department, called the Observatory for Health and Climate Change, will
be presented to Spain’s Cabinet next month ahead of a snap general election on July 23.

Spain has already banned outdoor work during periods of extreme heat after the death of a municipal worker in Madrid last summer, and set legal maximum and minimum temperatures for workplaces.

The city of Barcelona also operates a network of more than 200 climate shelters to shield people from
the heat.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch warned that the country was not doing enough to protect people with
disabilities from extreme temperatures.

“People with disabilities are at high risk of harm from exposure to extreme heat, including risk of
death and physical, social, and mental health distress, especially when they are left to cope with
dangerous temperatures on their own,” said Jonas Bull, assistant disability rights researcher at the

Spanish researchers at the Carlos III Health Institute recently published a paper showing that urban
environments without tree cover or adapted building materials can experience temperatures up to 11 C
(20 F) higher than the nearby countryside. The phenomenon, known as “heat islands,” affects densely
populated Spanish cities such as Valencia, Madrid and Barcelona.

Last year was Spain’s hottest ever, and spring 2023 was also declared the hottest on record. The
Iberian Peninsula is currently the driest territory in Europe as a prolonged drought extends into
summer, the European Union’s Copernicus Emergency Management Service said on Monday.

AP, Climate Change, Environment, Health, News, spain
AP, Health, News