Spain is located in southwestern Europe. The country occupies the Iberian Peninsula alongside its smaller neighbor Portugal. The Iberian Peninsula separates the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean. The nation is bordered by France to the northeast, by Portugal to the west, and the British enclave of Gibraltar to the south. The nation also has the enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta in the north of Morocco in Africa. The country is a favored travel destination due to its snow-capped mountains, stone castles, sophisticated cities, and vast monuments. The nation is culturally, and geographically diverse. The country's heartland lies on a broad central plateau which is half a mile above sea level known as Meseta. The mountainous regions of Catalonia, the broad Ebro River Valley, and Valencia’s hilly plain are found to the northeast. The Cantabrian Mountains are located to the northwest of the country and the Guadalquivir River Valley is found to the south. A desert is found in the southern part of the nation. The country occupies a temperate zone, and its distinct climate composition is determined by its world position. The nation’s continental land mass, as well as high mountainous terrain, allow for one of the most varied and diverse climates in Europe.
Influences on the Climate of Spain
The peninsula's location near North Africa and the Atlantic Ocean exposes it to Saharan influence and maritime influences coupled with influence from its mountainous relief. All the influences produce distinct climatic zones and also significantly exaggerate local aridity due to the formation of rain shadows on the Leeward side of the mountains.
In the Central northern region, the Cantabrian Mountains present a clear division of climate. On the northern side of the range lies what is at times called rainy Spain which includes Cantabria, Galicia, Basque, and Asturias. The region experiences slight variations in temperatures, cool summers, and mild winters. The Cantabrian and Pyrenees ranges play a significant role in the country's climates as they hold warm, dry subtropical air-stream over the country during summer.
The westerly winds that originate from the North Atlantic are prevalent all year long. Other notable local and seasonal winds include the easterly Levante that lead to dry and clear weather on the coastal region around the Strait of Gibraltar for about 15 days. The Leveche which brings dry, hot, and dust-laden winds in spring originates from the Spanish Levantine Lowlands in the provinces of Valencia, Alicante, and Castellon. The Solano, another wind from the same region, blows in summer and spring carrying with it unbearably dry and suffocating hot weather to the Andalusian plain.
Regions to the north between Galicia and northern Catalonia are characterized by temperate humid conditions of the maritime climate. The region receives high rainfall with average temperatures in January being 43 degrees Fahrenheit close to the coast. A Coruna municipality receives an annual rainfall of about 38 inches and experiences moderate annual temperature ranging between 48 degrees Fahrenheit during winter and 64 degrees Fahrenheit during summers.
The remaining part of the peninsula has a Mediterranean climate with continental tendencies.
The continental climate is characterized by temperature variations, low and irregular precipitation, and high rates of evaporation that leads to arid conditions. The average rainfall is about 11.8 to 25 inches with the central plains receiving 19.6 inches. The Sistema Central, northern Meseta, and Ebro Basin experience two rainy seasons with one occurring between April and June during the spring season and the other occurring in October and November during the autumn season. The late springtime is the wettest period. The wet seasons still receive irregular and unreliable rainfall. Winters are cold with high humidity and strong winds and low precipitation. The northern foothills in the Sistema Iberico experience the coldest conditions. Summers are cloudless and warm. Average summer temperatures in the Northern Meseta are 69.8 degrees Fahrenheit while the average temperatures in Southern Meseta are between 75.2 and 80.6 degrees Fahrenheit. The Ebro Basin, however, is extremely hot during summer with temperatures reaching highs of 109.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
The region that experiences a Mediterranean climate lies on the Andalusian plain, the eastern and southern coasts, and to the seaward side of the Pyrenees' parallel to the coast. The region experiences rainfall that is significantly lower than the rest of Spain. The rainfall is often slight, irregular, insufficient, and unreliable and is experienced in the late Autumn-winter periods. Temperatures in the region are considerably higher during summer and winter. Average temperatures in January are about 50 to 55.4 degrees Fahrenheit in a larger part of the region which includes Barcelona experiences cooler temperatures. Average temperatures on the Andalusian Plains are significantly lower compared to those on the coasts during winter. The Mediterranean region is characterized by the hot and dry Leveche winds and southeasterly or easterly air currents from North Africa. The winds are felt mainly during spring and carry fine dust. The Levante is an easterly wind funnel blowing between the Atlas Mountains in North Africa and the Penibetico system, which also influence the climate in the region.
The maritime climate is experienced mainly in the northern part of the country between the Pyrenees and the northwest region. It is characterized by warm summers, relatively mild winters, and abundant rainfall. There is, however, more precipitation in the west than in the east due to the influence of the Atlantic Ocean. Autumn experiences the most precipitation between October and December while the driest month is July. Average temperatures usually vary slightly on the seasonal and diurnal basis.
Climate and Tourism
The country's climatic conditions play a central role in attracting tourists. The Balearic Islands have a gentle climate that attracts millions of tourists and retirees mainly escaping northern Europe. The nation receives an estimated 55 million tourist’s yearly making tourism a significant sector in the nation's economy. Most of the tourists are from Germany, France, and the United Kingdom. At the dawn of the 21st century, the sector accounted for about a tenth of the country’s employment and GDP. The central Spanish government promotes tourism overseas and formulates tourism policies for the entire country while regional governments promote tourism in their provinces.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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