This will sound like petty anxiety compared to our potential fate if global warming gets out of control. But if you haven’t taken advantage of the exceptionally high temperatures of the British summer so far, you might want to think twice about the timing of your future Mediterranean holiday.
The heat waves across much of southern Europe this year have been more intense and longer lasting than anything we’ve experienced in the UK. France, for example, has just had its driest July ever and one of its hottest, with many places recording peaks above 40C (104F). In Spain, temperatures have reached 45.6C (114F) and as I write it looks like the Spanish State Meteorological Agency is about to declare the third severe heat wave of the summer so far – and it’s only the beginning of August.
Meanwhile, on July 14, the temperature in Pinhao, Portugal hit 47C (116F), breaking the overall national record for that month. Local records were also broken at 26 different locations across the country. It has also been unusually hot in Italy, Greece and Turkey, although the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean was not as bad as it was last summer when an intense heat wave swept through the region and a high of 45C (113F) was recorded in Greece.
These events are obviously more serious for the local population who must bear them – especially the vulnerable (some estimates suggest the heat may have contributed to as many as 5,000 deaths in Europe so far this year). But I wonder if they will also start to have an impact on tourism.
I’ve had a taste of the Continental heat twice so far this summer. Once it was for a few days in Aix-en-Provence and Marseille in June, and then a week on the Greek island of Hydra early last month. It reached 33-35C (91-95F) every day of each of my stays – higher than normal but still (thankfully) well below this year’s peak numbers. As much as I enjoyed the visits in general, it was still too hot for comfort.
Not everyone will agree, I’m sure; tolerances vary. But to me, anything above 30C (86F) means you end up sheltering in the shade for most of the day, and the whole idea of a holiday in the sun becomes counterproductive. You can swim to cool off and the sea breeze can help make things a little more bearable, but in essence, the sun has become an enemy rather than a friend.
Even worse, if the heat doesn’t subside after dark, you’ll end up sweating through the night or turning on the air conditioning. And there’s certainly nothing more ridiculous than traveling to enjoy warm weather and then spending most of your time with the air conditioning on full blast.
Maybe this is a weird summer. But if global warming is really becoming a reality, then maybe we’re seeing a glimpse of a future where we might not want to go that far south in high summer.
The new hot spots of summer?
Undoubtedly, warmer weather will cause more people to stay in the British Isles for their sun and sand holiday. But if the European holiday map starts to change, some destinations could become more attractive than the Mediterranean. They are also viable to reach without flying.
First on my list would be an old, traditional and favourite, the coast of Brittany and also the north coast of Spain, especially the beautiful sandy beaches of Cantabria. Both can be reached by ferry from Portsmouth and Roscoff (brittanyferries.co.uk).
If you prefer islands, how about Denmark’s scattering across the western Baltic – places like Fyn, Langeland and Bornholm? They are virtually unknown to British tourists, but are also accessible by train and ferry (visitdenmark.com).
Finally, perhaps the lakes and resorts at the foot of the Alps – once so popular as summer destinations – will also see a renaissance.
All of these destinations have a long-term climate that suggests average daily highs of 21-23C in summer and plenty of sunshine (although also a certain amount of rain). Global warming could very well change that. In fact, while researching this, I was checking the current temperatures on all of them. By midday on Wednesday, Bornholm was warming up at 25C, Benodet in Brittany was 26C, Santander 24C, and Annecy in the French Alps 30C. This may just be a fluke; It can also be a taste of what’s to come.