Compared to our possible fate if global warming does spiral out of control, that will sound like a minor concern. But if you haven’t yet enjoyed the extraordinarily high temperatures of the British summer, you might want to think twice about timing your future Mediterranean holidays.
Heat waves across much of southern Europe this year have been more intense and prolonged than anything we have experienced in the UK. France, for example, just had its driest July on record and one of its hottest, with peaks in excess of 40°C (104°F) recorded in many places. Temperatures hit 45.6°C (114°F) in Spain and as I write this it looks like the Spanish National Meteorological Agency is about to declare the third serious heatwave of the summer so far – and it’s only early August .
Meanwhile, in Pinhao, Portugal, the temperature reached 47°C (116°F) on July 14, breaking the overall national record for that month. Local records were also broken at 26 different locations across the country. It was also unusually hot in Italy, Greece and Turkey, although the situation in the eastern Mediterranean was not as dire as last summer, when an intense heatwave swept across the region and Greece saw a high of 45°C (113°F) was measured.
These events are obviously most serious for the local people who are enduring them – particularly those in need of protection (some estimates say the heat may have contributed to up to 5,000 deaths in Europe so far this year). But I wonder if they will also have an impact on tourism.
I’ve had a taste of the continental heat twice so far this summer. I went to Aix-en-Provence and Marseille for a few days in June and then to the Greek island of Hydra for a week early last month. It peaked at 33-35°C (91-95°F) every day during each of my stays – higher than usual but still (thankfully) well below this year’s peak levels. As much as I enjoyed the visits overall, it was still way too hot to be comfortable.
Not everyone will agree, I’m sure; Tolerances vary. But for me, anything over 30°C (86°F) means you’re 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 a sea breeze might help make things a little more bearable, but essentially the sun has become more of an enemy than a friend.
Worse, if the heat doesn’t abate after dark, you either sweat the night away or turn on the air conditioning. And surely there’s nothing more ridiculous than traveling to enjoy a hot climate and then spending a good chunk of your time with the air conditioning on full blast.
Maybe this will be one crazy summer. But if global warming does become a reality, then we might see a glimpse of a future where we might not want to drive so far south in the height of summer.
The new summer hotspots?
Undoubtedly, a warmer climate will mean more people taking their sun-and-sand holidays to the British Isles. But if the European vacation map starts to shift, some destinations could become more appealing than the Mediterranean. You can also reach them without flying.
First on my list would be an old traditional favourite, the Brittany coast and also the north coast of Spain, particularly the beautiful sandy beaches of Cantabria. Both can be reached by ferry from Portsmouth and Roscoff (brittanyferries.co.uk).
If islands are your thing, how about Denmark’s scatter in the western Baltic Sea – places like Funen, Langeland and Bornholm? Virtually unknown to British holidaymakers, they are also accessible by train and ferry (visitdenmark.com).
Perhaps the lakes and health resorts in the foothills of the Alps – once popular summer destinations – will also experience a renaissance.
All of these destinations have long-term climates that suggest average daily highs of 21-23°C in summer and plenty of sunshine (but also some amount of rain). Global warming could change that. When researching this, I even checked the current temperatures in all of them. On Wednesday midday, Bornholm was basking at 25°C, Benodet in Brittany at 26°C, Santander at 24°C and Annecy in the French Alps at 30°C. That can only be coincidence; it could also be a foretaste of things to come.