This is going to sound like petty anxiety compared with our potential fate if global warming does run out of control. But if you haven’t enjoyed the exceptionally high temperatures of the British summer so far, you might want to think twice about the timing of your future holidays to the Mediterranean.
The heatwaves across much of southern Europe this year have been more intense and long lasting than anything we have suffered 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 reached 45.6C (114F) and, as I write, it looks as though the Spanish State Meteorological Agency is about to declare the third serious heatwave of the summer so far – and we are only at 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 in 26 different locations across the country. It has also been unusually hot in Italy, Greece and Turkey, though the situation in the Eastern Med has not been as bad as last summer when an intense heatwave swept across the region and a high of 45C (113F) was recorded in Greece.
These events are obviously most serious for the local people who have to endure them – especially the vulnerable (some estimates suggest that the heat may have contributed to up to 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 was during a few days in Aix-en-Provence and Marseille in June, and then a week on the Greek island of Hydra at the beginning of last month. It reached 33-35C (91-95F) every day of each of my stays – higher than usual, but still (thankfully) well short of this year’s peak numbers. Much as I enjoyed the visits overall, it was still much too hot for comfort.
Not everyone will agree, I’m sure; tolerances vary. But, for me, anything much over 30C (86F) means that you end up sheltering in the shade for the best part 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, in essence, the sun has become an enemy rather than a friend.
Even worse, if the heat doesn’t relent after dark, you end up either sweating through the night, or switching on the air-conditioning. And surely there is nothing more ridiculous than travelling to enjoy a hot climate and then spending a big chunk of your time with the air-con at full tilt.
Perhaps this will prove a freak summer. But if global warming is indeed becoming a reality, then maybe we are seeing a glimpse of a future where we may not want to head so far south in high summer.
The new summer hot spots?
No doubt a warmer climate will lead to more people staying in the British Isles for their sun and sand holidays. But if the European holiday map does start to shift, some destinations might become more appealing than the Med. They are also feasible to reach without flying.
First on my list would be an old, traditional, favourite, the Brittany coast and also the north coast of Spain, especially the lovely 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 in the western Baltic – places like Fyn, Langeland and Bornholm? They are virtually unknown to British holidaymakers, but are also accessible by train and ferry (visitdenmark.com).
Finally, maybe the lakes and resorts in foothills of the Alps – once so popular as summer destinations – will also have a renaissance.
All these destinations have a long-term climate which suggests average daily highs of 21-23C in summer and plenty of sunshine (though also a certain amount of rain). Global warming may well change that. In fact, as I researched this, I was checking the current temperatures in all of them. At midday on Wednesday, Bornholm was basking in 25C, Benodet, in Brittany, was 26C, Santander, 24C, and Annecy in the French Alps, 30C. That may just be chance; it could also be a taste of things to come.