SPAIN - GEOGRAPHY AND STATISTICS
Spain - Climate
In accordance with its southerly position, its differences of elevation, and the variety in its superficial configuration in other respects, Spain presents within its borders examples of every kind of climate to be found on the northern hemisphere, with the sole exception of that of the torrid zone. As regards temperature, the heart of the tableland is characterized by extremes as great as are to be met with in almost any part of central Europe. The northern and north-western maritime provinces, on the other hand, have a climate as equable, and, it may be added, as moist, as that of the west of England or Scotland.
Four zones of climate are distinguished. The first zone may be called that of the tableland, although to it also the greater part of the Ebro basin may be referred. This is the zone of the greatest extremes of temperature. Even in summer the nights are often decidedly cold, and on the high parameras it is not a rare thing to see hoar-frost in the morning. In spring cold wetting mists occasionally envelop the land for entire days, while in summer the sky is often perfectly clear for weeks together. At all seasons of the year sudden changes of temperature, to the extent of from 30° to 50° F., are not infrequent. The air is extremely dry, which is all the more keenly felt from the fact that it is almost constantly in motion. At Madrid (2150 feet above sea-level) it regularly freezes so hard in December and January that skating is carried on on the sheet of water in the Buen Retire ; and, as winter throughout Spain, except in the maritime provinces of the north and north-west, is the season of greatest atmospheric precipitation, snowfalls are frequent, though the snow seldom lies long except at high elevations. The summers, on the other hand, are not only extremely warm but almost rainless, the sea-winds being deprived of their moisture on the edge of the plateau. In July and August the plains of New Castile and Estremadura are sunburnt wastes ; the roads are several inches deep with dust; the leaves of the few trees are withered and discoloured; the atmosphere is filled with a fine dust, producing a haze known as calina, which converts the blue of the sky into a dull grey. In the greater part of the Ebro basin the heat of summer is even more intense. The treeless mostly steppe-like valley with a bright-coloured soil acts like a concave mirror in reflecting the sun's rays, and, moreover, the mountains and highlands by which the valley is enclosed prevent to a large extent the access of winds, and thus hinder the renewal of the air, which in the lowest parts is little disturbed.
The second zone is that of the Mediterranean provinces, exclusive of those of the extreme south. In this zone the extremes of temperature are less, though the summers here also are warm, and the winters decidedly cool, especially in the north-east.
The southern zone, to which the name of African has been given, embraces the whole of Andalusia as far as the Sierra Morena, the southern half of Murcia, and the province of Alicante. In this zone there prevails a genuine subtropical climate, with extremely warm and almost rainless summers and mild winters, the temperature hardly ever sinking below freezing-point. The hottest part of the region is not the most southerly district but the bright-coloured steppes of the coast of Granada, and the plains and hill terraces of the south-east coast from Almeria to Alicante. Snow and frost are here hardly known. It is said that at Malaga snow falls only about once in twenty-five years. The winter, in fact, is the season of the brightest vegetation: after the long drought of summer the surface gets covered once more in late autumn with a fresh green varied with bright-coloured flowers, and so it remains the whole winter through. On the other hand, the eastern part of this zone is the part of Spain which is liable to be visited from time to time by the scorching and blasting leveche, the name given in Spain to the sirocco, as well as by the solano, a moist and less noxious east wind.
The fourth zone, that of the north and north-west maritime provinces, presents a marked contrast to all the others. The temperature is mild and equable ; the rains are abundant all the year round, but fall chiefly in autumn, as in the west of Europe generally. Monthly roses bloom in the gardens at Christmas as beautifully and as plentifully as in summer. The chief drawback of the climate is an excess of rain in some parts, especially in the west. Santiago de Compostella, for example, has one of the highest rainfalls on the mainland of Europe (see table below).
The figures given in the following table (I.) [296-1], although based only on data of short periods (from 3 1/2 to 20 years), will help to illustrate the preceding general remarks. Greenwich is added for the sake of comparison.
== TABLE ==
296-1 By conversion from Th. Fischer's Klima der Mittelmeerländer.
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