Temperature trends since 1900 in and around Málaga

Using data from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, we analysed 117 years of weather data in and around the city of Málaga. The area analysed also includes the surroundings of Málaga, which might include mountains or bodies of water, so that the temperatures shown here do not correspond exactly to the temperatures recorded by the weather stations of Málaga (see Methodology for details). This is what we found:

  • The temperature in and around Málaga between 2000 and 2017 was 1.5°C above the 20th century average.
  • The number of hot days (above 28°C over a 24-hour average) went from 1.3 days per year in the 20th century to 11.8 per year in the years since 2000.
  • The number of freezing days (below −1°C over a 24-hour average) went from 0.1 days per year in the 20th century to 0.1 per year since 2000.

Changes in weather patterns

Temperature changes

Since 1900, the average temperature in and around Málaga increased from an average of 15.7°C between 1900 and 1999 to an average of 17.1°C between 2000 and 2017. The warmest years in and around Málaga were 2017, 2016, 2015, 2011, and 2014.

Temperature in and around Málaga from 1900 to 2017. (png|svg|eps)

Hot days

In the 20th century, the average number of hot days (days for which the 24-hour average temperature is above 28°C) per year was 1.3. Between 2000 and 2017, the average number of hot days were 11.8 per year.

A day is considered hot when its average temperature is over two standard deviations of the normal average.

Number of days when the average temperature was above 28°C in and around Málaga, each year. (png|svg|eps)

What does it mean for Málaga?

Health and heat waves

Higher temperatures lead to excess mortality. The heatwave of July and August 2003, for instance, killed over 52,000 people in Europe, according to the Earth Policy Institute (Larsen, 2006), a think-tank. The elderly and infants are most at risk.

Rising temperatures may also cause the number of deaths related to extremely cold weather to drop.

Rail buckling and tarmac softening

In high temperatures, asphalt exposed to the sun starts to soften. This causes delays and some roads have to be closed to traffic.

When temperatures rise above 30°C, rails exposed to the sun can move or buckle. This can cause trains to derail, as happened many times in Europe already, and forces them to run more slowly, causing major delays.

Tick and mosquito-borne diseases

Tick-borne encephalitis, and more recently ehrlichiosis have been spreading in the past decades, probably due to higher temperatures (Gray et al., 2009).

Dengue fever, carried by the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, has been creeping North in the last decade, with epidemics in Portugal in 2012 and Japan in 2014 (Zeller et al., 2013). The Mediteranean basin is most at risk.


Researchers showed that when the daily average temperature increases above 22°C (Graff Zivin et al., 2018), cognitive abilities of school children decrease, especially in mathematics.

In Málaga, the number of school days above 22°C went from 5.7 per school year in the 20th century to 16.2 since 2000. It might not seem much but if exams took place on these days, pupils of Málaga were at a disadvantage.

Málaga and its environs in context

The most rapidly warming locations in Europe

Among the 58 biggest cities in the EU, Málaga is the fastest warming. We have defined “big cities” as cities with more than 500,000 people in the city proper.

RankLocationCountryTemperature change
1 / 58MálagaSpain+1.5
2 / 58SevilleSpain+1.4
3 / 58BucharestRomania+1.4
4 / 58VilniusLithuania+1.3
5 / 58CopenhagenDenmark+1.3
6 / 58ViennaAustria+1.3
7 / 58MadridSpain+1.3
8 / 58GenoaItaly+1.2
9 / 58WrocławPoland+1.2
10 / 58MilanItaly+1.2
11 / 58ZaragozaSpain+1.2
12 / 58KrakówPoland+1.2
13 / 58WarsawPoland+1.2
14 / 58DresdenGermany+1.2
15 / 58ŁódźPoland+1.2
16 / 58GothenburgSweden+1.1
17 / 58PragueCzechia+1.1
18 / 58PoznańPoland+1.1
19 / 58ZagrebCroatia+1.1
20 / 58LeipzigGermany+1.1

Málaga and nearby cities

Here are the five locations closest to Málaga, among the 560 we analyzed:

LocationDistanceTemperature change
Marbella47 km+1.4
Granada89 km+1.6
Algeciras112 km+0.7
Córdoba133 km+1.5
Jerez de la Frontera152 km+1.2

Cities of Spain

Málaga is one of 62 locations in Spain we have analyzed. This is how temperature has changed in the rest of them.

LocationTemperature change
Ciudad Real+1.4
Alcalá de Henares+1.4
Jerez de la Frontera+1.2
Talavera de la Reina+1.2
San Sebastián+0.8
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria+0.8
Santa Cruz de Tenerife+0.7
Ibiza Town+0.7
Santiago de Compostela+0.6
Castelló de la Plana+0.6
A Coruña+0.4
Cities of Spain
Cities of Spain (png|svg|webp)


We analyzed two data sets from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), ERA-20C for the period 1900–1979 and ERA-interim for the period 1979–2017.

Both data sets are re-analysis, which means that ECMWF scientists used observations from a variety of sources (satellite, weather stations, buoys, weather balloons) to estimate a series of variables for squares of about 80 kilometers in side width (125 kilometers for ERA-20C). While weather stations offer a much better record for immediate daily observations, using the ECMWF re-analyses is much more adequate for the study of long-term trends. Weather stations might move, or the city might expand around them, making their data unreliable when looking at centennial trends. However, the ECMWF data does not take into account micro-climates or “heat island” effects, so that the actual weather in the streets of Málaga was probably one or two degrees warmer than the values reported here (the trend, however, is the same).

This report was produced by the European Data Journalism Network. Partners include OBC Transeuropa (Italy), J++ (Sweden), Spiegel Online (Germany), Vox Europe (France), Pod Crto (Slovenia), Mobile Reporter (Belgium), Rue89 (France), Alternatives Economiques (France), and El Confidencial (Spain).


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