How often does it snow on the beaches of the Mediterranean? The surprised residents of Spain and Algeria would tell you: “Never”. On Thursday, however, it did just that.
With a temperature just above 0 degrees Celsius, it started snowing in Murcia before midday and kept going for three hours, leaving a few centimetres on the ground. The average temperature in January in Murcia is 17C. There has been a temperature measured of -7.5C, but the last time snow was seen in the town was 1983.
The town of Murcia is a little inland but snow reached right down to the coast. In Cartagena, it has snowed three times in history, in 1914, 1926 and 1939, but not since. That makes the current snow a rare and surprising event. Torrevieja, just up the coast, received snow for the first time in 118 years.
Across the water, on the shores of Algeria, the weather was equally wintry.
Around the Bay of Bejaia it rained steadily on Tuesday, then heavily, eventually bringing snow to the ground. Bejaia itself measured 76mm of rain and the temperature hovered around 3C all day. Wednesday was drier but almost as cold. Thursday managed a temperature of 9C.
The worst weather moved west into Morocco. In the port city of Al Hoceima, Thursday was a cold and wet day. About 32mm of rain fell and the temperature only briefly got above 6C.
The driving force behind this rather long lived cold spell of weather in the western Mediterranean is a slowly revolving area of low pressure. It is not filling up quickly but is likely to spread rain and snow further up the Spanish coast and, by Sunday, along the French Riviera.