Global Warming Portugal



Global Warming, Northern Portugal & This Villa's Location

Quite rightly a lot is being made of the global climate warming and what it means to each of us. Many people believe global warming is simply about rising temperatures, a few extra storms, the odd flood and rising sea temperatures. Actually it is a lot more than that and choosing where to buy a home in this respect is increasingly important. Central Portugal for example in 2006 suffered widespread forest fires after a drought. In 2010 a massive storm moved through the Bay of Biscay and many properties in France plus Galicia Spain and to a lesser extent Northern Portugal were damaged. In 2003 a staggering 15,000 people died in France due to a severe heat wave there. In 2010 massive forest fires from a prolonged heat wave afflicted central Europe. Rivers around Europe flooded in 2002, 2008 and 2010. The UK suffered deadly floods in 2009 and chillingly cold winters in 2009 and 2010. The Mediterranean often has severe water shortages now.

So there are important reasons to make sure any home you buy is in the "right" area; this property on the Minho River is one of the best climate change investments in Europe, based partly on the expected climate change model for Northern Portugal.

The woodland floor next to the quinta is cleared regularly and new Portuguese fire prevention laws were passed in 2008 mandating woodland maintenance, particularly land next to roads (one of the biggest causes of these fires were motorists flicking their cigarettes out of their windows) and property. This quinta also sits in front of a section of river used by both the Spanish and Portuguese fire fighting helicopters to fill their suspended buckets up with water. It is therefore in a very good position, to say the very least, to have any fire nearby quickly extinguished. Below is a picture of a Portuguese fire fighting helicopter, further down the page one from Spain. The helicopters are not that regular a necessity thank goodness but are interesting to watch of course when they do appear. While other properties in exposed locations not that far away from here were damaged by the battering South Westerly's in the Storm of 2010, this villa is sheltered from such Atlantic storms by location and a mature pine woodland; not a single tree nearby was felled. You can experience chilly Northerly / North Easterly winds in December / January, but nothing worse.

Portuguese fire fighting helicopter

Global Warming

First, to understand what will undoubtedly happen, it is not just the increasing average world temperature you need to consider, but also the change in weather patterns due to the tropics moving further north and south. Most people think of the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn as straight cartographic lines around the globe; they are not. The true tropics are far from straight and are actually defined by a complicated series of high altitude jet streams called “the Hadley circulation”; global warming is actually pushing the true tropic lines further towards the poles. This is important to the effects of global warming as they govern wind directions at ground level, plus rainfall. The northerly extreme of the Tropic of Cancer (the tropic for the northern hemisphere) used to run along the north coast of Africa. Anything just north of it (the Mediterranean and Algarve) receiving good rainfall, not least because of the frequent South Westerly winds coming in off the Atlantic. Anything just south of it (North Africa / the Sahara Desert) being very dry and hot, with the winds most often coming from the hot dry south and south east.

With the true climatic Tropic of Cancer moving further north, there are some very real concerns that the Mediterranean and Algarve will not just suffer average temperature rises, but will become much hotter and drier, suffering dangerous heat waves and chronic water shortages. Northern Portugal is believed to be one of the areas in the world that will be least affected by climate change. Yes, average mean temperatures are set to rise here. Yes, rainfall is expected to decrease here. But the predictions are around a 4 degree Celsius mean increase and only a 10% loss of rainfall for the area by 2071. Compare this with the Algarve and Mediterranean which is expected to lose 50% or more of its rainfall according to the EU and suffer dramatic increases in average temperatures with a crucially large frequency of dangerous critically hot days, such as caused the problem in France in 2003.

Part of the benefit of having a home on the river is it can be legally used if necessary for irrigation water and to fight fires. The existing owners have also invested in a small inexpensive petrol driven water pump on wheels which they can quickly and easily pump the contents out onto any nearby fire. It has a short solid input pipe which can be lowered into the swimming pool, and a flexible 50 meter output pipe with adjustable nozzle on the end. Such extra peace of mind is not expensive, in fact the existing mini fire engine is included in the property price! However, as the neighbor clears their woodland floor regularly, as the fire station is literally round the corner, and as the fire fighting helicopters fill up their buckets right in front of the villa, there is little cause for concern here at this villa!

2006 Portuguese FiresBeing on a large river, in 2006 the existing owners watched the Spanish coastguard helicopters, which double as fire fighting aircraft, came and filled up their large water buckets right in front of the property. The only problems the villa owners themselves actually endured in that infamous year were small carbonized (cindered) leaves falling out of the sky into the swimming pool (for them to clean), plus two days where it was so hot and smoggy they decided to sleep in the air-conditioned and generally cooler (because it is built into granite) downstairs lounge, as they could not open the middle floor bedroom windows because of air pollution. Since the 2006 fires, which mostly affected central Portugal, laws have been introduced to prevent such natural disasters in the future. Still, being close to such a large water supply is still of comfort!

Flood Risk?
Being this property is riverfront, and given the subject is adverse weather / climate conditions, it is only right to wonder about a potential flood risk as seen in other areas of Europe. First, as late as the year 2000, the River Minho was subject to flooding. However, even then only the lower grounds of this property were flooded; the villa sits way above the floodplain on a bank. But since 2002 the River Minho's water level has been controlled by a large hydro-electric damn and reservoir further upstream and the authorities are so confident the Minho will never flood again, premises have been licensed and are now being built near the site of the road bridge into Spain which were flooded several times in the past. What that means for this villa / property is that the river is now managed so it never reaches the perimeter riverfront fence and gates any more. Truly, this property is riverfront without the risks often associated with being so close to water.

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