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Spain announces new department to study effects of very hot weather on health

Spain sweltered in its first official heat wave of the year on Monday as the government announced a new department to investigate and alleviate the effects of extreme temperatures on human health.

The state weather agency, AEMET, said temperatures were predicted to hit 44 degrees Celsius (111 degrees Fahrenheit) in the country’s south during the hot spell, expected to last until Thursday, and noted that heat waves have become more common during the month of June over the last 12 years.

The proposal to create the new department, called the Observatory for Health and Climate Change, will be presented to Spain’s Cabinet next month ahead of a snap general election on July 23.

Spanish researchers at the Carlos III Health Institute recently published a paper showing that urban environments without tree cover or adapted building materials can experience temperatures up to 11 C (20 F) higher than the nearby countryside. The phenomenon, known as “heat islands,” affects densely populated Spanish cities such as Valencia, Madrid and Barcelona.

Last year was Spain’s hottest ever, and spring 2023 was also declared the hottest on record. The Iberian Peninsula is currently the driest territory in Europe as a prolonged drought extends into summer, the European Union’s Copernicus Emergency Management Service said on Monday.

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