12 Aug 2014

Exceptional drought in south-eastern Spain

South-eastern Spain is experiencing an exceptional drought over the last 25 years. Source: JRC-EDEA
South-eastern Spain is experiencing an exceptional drought over the last 25 years. Source: JRC-EDEA database

Between October 2013 and July 2014, despite abundant rainfall in most of Europe, the south-eastern Iberian Peninsula (the Murcia and Valencia regions, and eastern Andalucía) was affected by mean and long-term precipitation deficits, leading to significant soil moisture deficits. In the same period, temporary rainfall shortages occurred also in France, Germany and Belgium, but their possible effects were likely insignificant due to subsequent rainfall events.

The JRC’s European Drought Observatory (EDO) monitors the occurrence and the evolution of the drought events over the entire European territory. When it detects drought events, it publishes open access online reports based on the latest available meteorological weather data, soil water models and remote sensing imageries.

The analysis of the long-term term rainfall indicators (SPI-6 and SPI-9), available in EDO, highlight a long-term deficit in southern Spain with potential impacts on reservoirs and river flows. The most affected areas were the regions of Valencia and Murcia, and the Almeria province. Almost the whole territory of the provinces of Valencia, Castellon and Alicante experienced six consecutive months with "extreme dry" conditions from November 2013 to April 2014.

Percentage of Provinces territory affected by rainfall anomalies according to different classes of drought severity. Source: JRC-EDEA database
Percentage of Provinces territory affected by rainfall anomalies according to different classes of drought severity. Source: JRC database

As a consequence of these precipitation deficits, the soil water content was drastically depleted. The soil moisture model data provide clear evidence of the areas suffering due to the rain shortage, confirming the exceptional conditions that have occurred since October 2013, with persistent negative values in the regions of Valencia and Murcia, and in Almeria.

Maps of monthly soil moisture anomalies between October 2013 and July 2014. Source: JRC-EDEA database
Maps of monthly soil moisture anomalies between October 2013 and July 2014. Source: JRC data base

An analysis of the historical data demonstrates that, since 1990, similar and even worse conditions occurred on only a few occasions; e.g. 1994, 1996, 1999, 2005. However, the average soil water content in the Castellon and Valencia provinces for the period October-July is at its lowest level since 1990.

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