Much of Spain spent two, or in some cases three days, under a cloud of dust last week, as a result of which our streets, terraces and cars were all dyed orange.
According to the National Air Quality Index (ICA), in the provinces of Alicante, Murcia, and many others, air quality levels were “extremely unfavourable” due to the suspended particles.
The authorities generally warn that the daily average content of these particles should not exceed 40 µg/m3. Well, in Alicante and Murcia, the reported levels exceeded 300 µg/m3.
On Tuesday, the Climatology Laboratory at the University of Alicante said that Spain had the most unfavourable air quality anywhere in the world, surpassing both India and China.
These clouds of Saharan dust happen every year when hot wind blows across loose soils on dry lands. Last year, a massive plume the size of the United States named “Godzilla” carried tonnes of tiny particles across the Atlantic Ocean.
Fortunately, as the week progressed, the weather then delivered much-needed rainfall to a region that has been recently been hit by drought. In the last three months of 2021, Spain recorded just 35 percent of its average rainfall, since when there had been almost no rain with many reservoirs running dry.
Previously flooded villages re-emerged from the bottom of these basins and farmers across the Iberian Peninsula were worried that crops could fail. While periods of drought are common in the region, experts say that climate change has exacerbated the problem in what is usually the wet season.
Of course the heavy downpours were not good news for all, particularly members of the Irish Community, who had been looking forward to celebrating their first St Patrick’s Day Parade for three years.
As the reservoirs filled to previous levels, Orihuela Costa Parade Organisers met on Tuesday with councillors to discuss the situation, and following the safety concerns raised by directors of many of the dance and parade troupes, all stating that that they would not parade in the rain or the wind, , the decision was reluctantly taken to call off the parade.
Despite continued downpours, however, the celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day, did not succumb as the Irish still took to the streets in large numbers to celebrate their national holiday.
Wearing traditional hats, shirts, costumes, wigs and bowties they were still out in force, dressed in their customary green but while many of the regular Irish outlets enjoyed a steady trade throughout the day and evening there were a large number of hospitality outlets that failed to capitalise on the day, with many establishments closing early, despite it being one of the most anticipated celebrations of the year.