Sunday, November 17, 2013

Bad Thursdays: Mallorca's November weather

The largest fair to be held in Mallorca is Inca's Dijous Bo. It is always held on the same Thursday (dijous) in November, one that falls more or less in the middle of the month. "Bo" means good. Almost inevitably though, the weather for Dijous Bo is less than good. It always appear to be grey when it takes place, and sometimes the weather is worse.

In 2001, Dijous Bo, which should have been held on 15 November, was cancelled. Some indoor events went ahead but the outdoor events - most of the fair therefore - were impossible. On the front cover of the "Majorca Daily Bulletin" for that day, there was a headline which simply said: "Freezing". The island was on emergency footing after a forecast for freak weather had been issued. The emergency meant no Dijous Bo. It was a bad Thursday, and a photo of heavy snow in the mountains the day before showed just how bad things were.

In the paper for that day before, a report said that wind, rain and snow were to return. The report was accurate. On the same page as this report was a headline which read: "Balearics ask Madrid to declare the region a disaster zone". And yet, the freezing weather hadn't yet caused the havoc that it was going to on that Wednesday. So why would the Balearics have been looking for the region to have been declared a disaster zone?

That was because of what had happened a few days before. On the Sunday (11 November), the headline informed us that the Balearics had been battered by biting winds and torrential rain. There was more to come on that Sunday. Mallorca was living through what has gone down in the island's weather legend as the big storm or the hurricane of 2001. Snow, high winds, flooding, trees uprooted, roofs torn off, roads impassable and subsequently in need of repair, two people dead. And when it looked as though the worst of the weather was over, on the Wednesday came the freezing conditions and even more snow.

If you read through the report on Sunday, 11 November, you will note that it says: "hard to believe that this time last week people were on the beaches and even in the sea". It is a report which will sound very familiar. Mallorca hasn't been battered by quite the same weather as it was in November 2001, but in November 2013, the sudden transformation from summer conditions to dreadful conditions has been similar to what happened in 2001. Dijous Bo, for which the weather this year was rainy, went ahead without any problem. Had it been a day later, things might have been different. The rain was torrential, while in the mountains, where the temperatures are lower, the snow fell.

One of the more remarkable aspects about the bad weather that Mallorca has just been suffering is the amount of surprise that has been expressed. It does perhaps show the power of social media that photos of snow in the mountains have been met with incredulity and even suggestions that the photos were fake. Those who are unfamiliar with Mallorca's weather probably would find the photos hard to comprehend. But were they to consult weather records, they would comprehend an awful lot more.

The rainfall data for the Albufera weather station gives you an idea. These data are from 1987 to the current time. The average rainfall in November makes it the second wettest month of the year. October is wetter, but its slightly higher average is skewed by what occurred in 1990 - the great flood. Nearly 400mm of rain fell in October 1990. The second wettest (1994) registered 277mm, also in October.

When the records for this November are totted up, it may well prove to have been the wettest November since 1987. It will therefore top 2011 and 2012, which are in positions one and two in terms of rainfall, and in both years, when colder weather pushed in as well, in the mountains there was snow in November.

The exceptionally warm weather of more than a week ago created something of a false impression. With highs nudging the 30 degrees mark, these were far from normal. In the past few years, from 2005, the highest temperatures had been in 2009 and 2006 (26 degrees), and, astonishingly enough, in 2006 this was on 25 November. A year later, on 18 November 2007, there was a record low of 1.5C.

All this goes to show, as if of course we needed any reminding, that weather is unpredictable, and November in Mallorca can be very unpredictable. The high temperatures earlier in the month had many clutching at a winter-sun-tourism straw only to find that a few days later, the straw was buried under snow or had been washed away by a deluge of quite biblical proportions. It is this unpredictability which is at the heart of why the season ends when it does end. We should all admit that this is why it ends when it does end, and if we can't admit this, then we should take a look at the weather data, and if we still need some more convincing we should look at those reports from 2001.

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