THE WEATHER IN GALICIA

21.1.09

First, some general facts:-

 

Galicia is on the north west coast of Spain. It has both a maritime and an Atlantic climate. The prevailing winds come up from the south west and arrive after crossing a great deal of water  For these reasons, the weather is variable outside the more reliable summer months.

 

Galicia is beautifully verdant. You don't get this without water falling on the land.

 

Whereas Galicia gets much less rain that Manchester UK during the summer months, it gets almost three times its rain during the winter. Overall, Galicia gets twice  as much annual rain as Manchester. For details, see www.worldclimate.com  

 

Once you move in from the coast the land quickly starts to become mountainous. The weather inland is colder in winter and hotter in summer than it is on the coast. In some places, appreciably so. See below.

 

When the north wind blows in the winter, night-time temperatures can fall below zero in the mountains and close to zero even on the coast. This, of course, means snow and ice in the hills and mountains. To compensate for this, the days are gloriously sunny. Otherwise, when the wind is from the south west, the winter days are cloudy or wet and the daytime temperatures are around 15 degrees and the night-time temperatures around 9 or 10 on the coast. Lower inland.

 

The raw data on rain can be misleading. A place which has a lower annual rainfall can still have far fewer sunny days than another place with greater annual rainfall. This reflects the pattern of the rain. A place where it falls for 300 days as steady drizzle is far less sunny than a place which receives higher volumes of rain but in occasional torrents.

 

Such is the range of conditions, Galician averages are of limited use, both as between different areas in the region and as between different years.

 

Central heating is a must, especially if you plan to live in the mountains. And dehumidification is common in the more humid areas.

 

Be particularly careful about river/mountain valleys, such as the one in which the spa town of Mondariz lies. These can suffer from mists/fogs in the winter that take the entire morning to dissipate.

 

Now for some specifics…..

 

I can’t stress too much that there are significant differences between the rain, cloud and sun figures between one part of Galicia and another. Any guide book which treats Galicia as a single meteorological entity needs to be read with scepticism.

 

The southern half of west/coastal Galicia is appreciably warmer but, to further complicate matters, within this area there are pockets of even better weather which the locals regularly refer to as microclimates. So, La Coruña is less sunny and much more windy than further south; and Santiago is cloudier and wetter than Pontevedra or Vigo. And, beyond Vigo towards Portugal, there is a microclimate around Bayona/Nigrán. There’s another around Sanxenxo/Cambados and a third around Tomiño/O Rosal, along the banks of the river Miño. Significantly, wine is grown in abundance in both of the latter areas. My own personal view is that the Tomiño/O Rosal area is hard to beat from a purely weather point of view. 

 

At the moment, most of the enquiries I get are from people looking in the La Coruña and Ourense areas. Other than for the surfers who want wind and don't care about anything else, I can't imagine why La Coruña rates highly. As for Ourense [and Lugo], price is probably the main factor as the interior of Galicia is suffering depopulation and there are probably more cheap properties for sale in these provinces, especially in the remoter areas. Plus, as regards Ourense, there is a web-based, English-speaking estate agent operating up there. Anyway, I’m still a little confused by this as no-one where I am would ever contemplate living in these places from a weather point of view.

 

The area around La/A Coruña is renowned for high humidity, constant Atlantic winds and many more grey, cloudy, sunless or drizzly days than further south. And the locals add that, even when the sun shines, the winds will drive you from the beach as early as 6pm. This compares with 9.30 or even later in the Pontevedra/ Vigo/Bayona area.

 

Ourense, on the other hand, is renowned for having a continental climate that makes it, at certain times of the year, either the coldest or hottest place in Spain. And that’s saying something. Friends who are from up there tell me that there are dreadful fogs during much of the winter, especially in the valleys. I recently drove up beyond Ourense on a sunny day to find there was still thick fog up there at nearly 11 in the morning. As for the summer, an article in the papers of 31.5.05 noted there would only be considered to be serious heat wave if temperatures in Ourense exceeded 37 degrees, which is higher than the trigger point for Malaga, Almeria and Alicante. In contrast, Pontevedra's is 32. And a knowledgeable friend tells me that Ourense is the hottest place in Spain for as many as 15 days during July and August. I can't confirm the veracity or otherwise of this just yet but at the very least it suggests the need to be sure about how bearable your summers are going to be up there. Especially if you are buying a vacation home and risk spending your 2 week holiday hiding from the sun and trying to sleep at night.

 

Finally, Lugo is up in the mountains like Ourense. During the summer, it is not as hot as Ourense but has very cool nights. In the winter, it is much colder than places on the coast..

 

It need stressing again that if you think you’ll find ‘higher summer temperatures’ appealing, most of us feel anything above 30 is hard to take, even on the coast where there are sea breezes. These temperatures – and even higher ones – are much harder to live with up in the breeze-less mountains. If you think that 37 [or even 30] sounds nice, you have probably never experienced it. Especially in a place of high humidity.

 

Buying property – especially for a retirement – is clearly a trade off between competing attractions but my advice would be to ensure you are fully aware of the prevailing weather conditions [summer and winter] before you buy a place because the scenery is great and the price is lower than elsewhere. There’s usually a reason for this.

 

Data

 

To give you at least some hard[ish] data to go on, in the table below I'm recording the daily maximum temperatures in Galician cities throughout the summer of 2005. Malaga's levels are given for contrast with the south coast. On July 11, I began adding Barcelona and Alicante as the Malaga temperature for 6 weeks had often been below those in the hotter parts of Galicia.

 

Please note the basis of some of these temperatures changed as of 13 July. For the period up to 12 July, for all cities they are forecasts. Since 13 July, I have been using actual data [when I can get it] but only for some cities. So, from 13 July there is a mix of forecasts and actuals. The forecasts are in italics whereas the actuals aren't. You'll see the entire column for Pontevedra is of actuals but, as yet, I can't do this for the other Galician cities as the data isn't always available. Putting this another way, the Pontevedra column is the most accurate.

 

Any temperature at 30 or above is in bold.

 

Note also that these are shade temperatures. When it's "37" in Ourense, for example, the sun-kissed gauges show 45. My guess is that the difference between the forecast and the in-the-sun temperatures is less for coastal than for interior cities, because of the cooling winds from the sea. On this basis, La Coruña would be closest to the forecast and Ourense the farthest. If this is true, you really wouldn't want to be in [humid] Ourense when the forecast is 34. Or even 30. And God help you at 38!

 

I stress again that differing humidity levels mean there's a significant difference between the comfort factor even at identical temperatures:-

 

   Date La Coruña   Lugo Ourense P'vedra  Malaga Bar'lona Alicante
3 June 18 21 26 23 26
4 June 19 23 27 28 26    
5 June 22 26 32 31 27    
6 June 23 26 32 32 27    
7 June 23 29 34 35 26    
8 June 22 29 36 34 25    
9 June 26 29 38* 28 26    
10 June 23 28 34 25 27
11 June 26 24 34 22 28    
12 June 21 22 27 21 32    
13 June 21 22 26 22 28    
14 June 20 18 26 23 33    
15 June 22 23 27 23 27    
16 June 24 28 34 29 29    
17 June 28 30 36 35 29    
18 June 23 34 38* 25 28    
19 June 21 25 33 33 30    
20 June 21 23 30 30 29    
21 June 21 24 31 32 29    
22 June 25 30 34 33 29    
23 June 23 28 34 24 30    
24 June 23 29 33 22 33    
25 June 21 22 27 24 31    
26 June 22 21 28 25 30    
27 June 23 24 28 24 30    
28 June 20 20 24 22 35    
29 June 21 22 25 22 33    
30 June 20 22 25 23 34    
               
1 July 22 21 28 27 30
2 July 24 29 34 29 29    
3 July 22 25 30 27 30    
4 July 20 20 27 25 34    
5 July 21 22 27 28 30    
6 July 20 22 29 28 29    
7 July 22 23 32 28 29    
8 July 23 25 30 30 30    
9 July 24 26 32 33 30    
10 July 26 27 34 36 30    
11 July 27 28 38* 36 30 29  
12 July 30 32 37* 34 29 28  
13 July 30 34 39* 24 29 29 35
14 July 22 32 32 25 30 29 32
15 July 24 29 32 26 31 30 32
16 July 23 27 33 24 34 30 34
17 July 23 23 26 24 34 31 31
18 July 22 22 27 25 30 35 35
19 July 24 22 38 34 30 28 31
20 July 30 28 40 37 31 28 30
21 July 28 26 36 23 32 29 30
22 July 23 27 35 26 35 28 30
23 July 23 26 30 25 34 28 28
24 July 21 23 26 24 35 30 31
25 July 27 25 28 25 37 28 33
26 July 25 27 29 26 36 29 31
27 July 25 26 27 22 34 29 29
28 July 24 24 28 23 34 30 30
29 July 22 20 26 23 34 30 31
30 July 21 20 27 25 32 28 29
31 July 21 21 30 26 28 27 29
               
1 Aug 21 20 28 28 31 26 27
2 Aug 25 24 30 30 29 24 26
3 Aug 26 24 31 34 29 26 27
4 Aug 26 24 34 37 27 27 29
5 Aug 28 28 37 35 28 29 29
6 Aug 30 29 39 34 28 29 30
7 Aug 28 28 40* 37 28 29 29
8 Aug 30 30 39 25 30 28 28
9 Aug 23 27 31 24 32 28 29
10 Aug 22 21 27 23 33 28 30
11 Aug 23 28 37* 30 33 28 29
12 Aug 24 28 37 34 28 29 29
13 Aug 26 27 37 37 29 29 30
14 Aug 22 28 37 36 30 30 32
15 Aug 25 26 37 36 30 27 29
16 Aug 26 27 36 24 30 28 28
17 Aug 21 26 34 29 33 28 30
18 Aug 24 27 31 30 33 27 27
19 Aug 21 22 30 29 31 26 28
20 Aug 24 25 31 29 29 26 26
21 Aug 22 22 28 26 29 27 25
22 Aug 22 26 32 30 29 27 30
23 Aug 22 23 31 30 28 27 28
24 Aug 22 24 30 29 29 28 28
25 Aug 21 22 29 26 31 29 30
26 Aug 21 22 33 26 32 27 29
27 Aug 23 23 30 21 32 27 31
28 Aug 22 25 33 30 31 27 29
29 Aug 27 27 38* 25 29 28 29
30 Aug 19 35 38* 21 30 27 29
31 Aug 23 25 30 25 30 27 30
  La Coruña  Lugo Ourense P'vedra  Malaga B'celona Alicante

                                                                                        * The highest temperature in Spain

The maximum shade temperature averages for June, July and August 2005 were:

                                  June                July                Aug

            La Coruña:     22                   24                   24

            Lugo:              25                   25                   26

 

            Ourense:         31                   31                  33

            Pontevedra:    27                   27                  29   

            Malaga:          29                   32                  30  August down on July.

            Barcelona                              29                  28  August down on July

            Alicante                                 31                  29  August well down on July.

o The range of temperatures for June was:-

            La Coruña     18 - 28

            Lugo              18 - 34   At 16, the widest range

            Ourense         24 - 38

            Pontevedra    21 - 35

            Malaga          25 - 35

o The range of temperatures for July was:-

            La Coruña     20 - 30

            Lugo              20 - 34

            Ourense         26 - 40

            Pontevedra    21 - 37   At 16, the widest range. Slightly wider than Ourense

            Malaga          29 - 37

            Barcelona      27 - 31   At 4, the narrowest range but last 21 days only.

            Alicante         28 - 35   Last 19 days only

    As you would expect, the July ranges were much wider in places on/near the Atlantic.

    But it's interesting Ourense had a higher maximum than the 3 'hotter' places.

o The range of temperatures for August was:-

            La Coruña     19 - 30

            Lugo              20 - 30 Lower max than in July               

            Ourense         27 - 40

            Pontevedra    21 - 37 At 16, again the widest range.

            Malaga          27 - 33 At 6, the narrowest range. Shared with Barcelona

            Barcelona      24 - 30 Range of only 6. And the warmest night-time temperatures.

            Alicante         25 - 32

Conclusions

o La Coruña is nearly always [and appreciably] the coolest city in Galicia, as much as 14 degrees below Ourense

o Ourense is nearly always the hottest place in Galicia. It can be 9 degrees more than Pontevedra, and without the sea breezes

o Yes, Ourense is sometimes the hottest place in the whole of Spain, 9 times by the end of August

o Lugo is rarely warmer/hotter than Pontevedra during the day and is always much cooler during the evening, night and early morning

Observations

o There was rain on only 3 days in June in Pontevedra, with 2 of these being very light:-

   The numbers were: 28th: 47.5m [Just under 2 inches]   29th.: 1.6mm     30th.: 4.8mm

o The cooler spell between 21and 29 July brought a little rain to Pontevedra [and other Galician cities] after a dry spell of 3 weeks.

    Pontevedra - 24-29th:  Respectively, 6.3, 5.6, 8.4, 4.2 and 1.2mm       No data for the other cities.

o Rainfall in Pontevedra during August was:- 16.6mm

o Malaga was cooler than most places in Galicia for several days during June and early July but got progressively hotter as July progressed.

o Occasionally, the forecasts are spectacularly wrong. This usually happens when they assume cloud cover and it doesn't happen. Or vice versa.

o August opened with lower temperatures in Barcelona and Malaga than any of July. Likewise, La Coruña's and Lugo's were low.

o For Barcelona, Alicante and Malaga, August seems to have been a less hot month than usual.

o In contrast, Ourense was particularly hot in August, with 27 days being 30 or above. In contrast, Malaga had 'only' 16.

o Although I haven't tracked the night time minimums, I noted on several occasions that Lugo's got down to 8 or so, even in August.

 

ANSWERS TO SPECIFIC QUESTIONS RAISED

Q. Are there any warm, sunny days in winter, when you can sit out in the sun?

A. At least along the coast, the average daily winter temperature is around 15 degrees. But when it is at this level, the winds are from the south west and it is likely to be grey or wet. You can sit out, if it's not raining, but there won't be much sun. When, however, the wind blows from the north, the days are very sunny and the daytime temperatures can be much higher. Even warm enough for the beach, though not the sea. The nights, though, are much colder. The last 2 winters have been exceptionally dry and sunny but it's impossible to say what next winter will bring. One thing different from the UK is that the weather 'sets in' for several days at a time; so you can have several days of continuous sun interchanging with several days of continuous cloud/rain. One learns to be pragmatic.