From the beginning of the hydrological year, on October 1, 2022, to the middle of May 2023, Spain received 28 percent less rain than expected, according to the Spanish meteorological service. The drought emptied the reservoirs, dried up the olive groves and restricted the water supply to the fields.
The images above, obtained by the Moderated Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Earth satellite, show where green vegetation in May 2022 (left) has turned brown in May 2023. The rains further dried up the already dry land by 2022. According to a recent report from the Copernicus Climate Change Service, soil moisture across Europe in 2022 was the second lowest in 50 years.
The untimely heat aggravated the prolonged drought. On 26 April, warm air from North Africa swept across southern Spain, raising the temperature at Córdoba airport to 38.8 °C (101.8 °F), the highest temperature ever recorded in mainland Spain in April.
This map shows where vegetation on the Iberian Peninsula was less healthy than usual (brown) in spring 2023. The map shows anomalies in the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), which is a derivative of satellite images used to assess vegetation conditions.
NDVI indicates the health, or “greenness” of vegetation based on the amount of red and near-infrared light reflected from the leaves. Healthy vegetation reflects more infrared light and less visible light than the vegetation that illuminated it. This map, which uses the MODIS instrument on NASA’s Earth satellite, compares the NDVI from March 25 to April 23, 2023 to the longer-term average (2000 to 2010) for that period.
Southern Spain – a key agricultural region – looks particularly dark in the map above. The Andalusia region in southern Spain is the largest olive oil producing region in the world. In May 19, the Cordoba airport received only about 30 percent of the expected rainfall, compared to the average from 1981 to 2010.
Similarly, in Jaén, a few kilometers east of Córdoba, a lot of rain fell: the expected 12.5 centimeters (5 inches) of rain, only 2 centimeters (0.8 inches) fell by mid-May. . The most famous region is its extra-virgin olives, which are produced from various Picual oils. According to one estimate, the Andalusian region of Jaén will produce 25 percent of the world’s oil supply by 2022.