Monday, 4 June 2012

Winter drought on Mt Teide. January 2012

Tenerife is still suffering an ongoing drought having not had anywhere near the normal rainfall last autumn or in  the winter months. The island depends on the storms that normally occur at these seasons to fill up the reservoirs and small number of ponds and to soak the ground so the plants can all grow. It simply didn't happen this time around.

Here I am filmed up on Mt Teide, the highest mountain in Spain, in January 2012, talking about the terrible state of the highland vegetation there. Much of it was dying or dead and crumbled to dust in your hands.

The media here for some unknown reason failed to report on this climatic disaster until over a month later. People I spoke to that live on the island thought I was making too much of a big deal about this. They told me it would rain in February and all would be OK. It didn't!

My report on the unusual winter drought was published in Tenerife News, making me, as far as I know, the first serious news report on the subject. Since then a few other news stories have gone out about the problem. It is sad that it is the worst winter drought in 50 years.

Apparently sometimes you get no rain or very little in the autumn and early part of the winter but then in the New Year the thunderstorms arrive and make good for the lack of rain until then. It is very unusual for there to be no rain in the autumn followed by none in the winter too!  This is a very serious problem, not only for farmers, but also for much of the varied and unique flora and fauna of the island of Tenerife.

Because Mt Teide is so high the rain falls as snow up there. It is usually capped in gleaming white from November onwards, sometimes as late as may of the following year but not this time. The one place you can normally count on having a White Christmas in the Canary Islands didn't have one, and visitors to Tenerife over the winter months did not get to see the majestic mountain arrayed in a white mantle that can be seen easily from the windows of planes approaching the island.

The unique, and in some cases, very rare plants that grow high on Mt Teide may well be drought resistant to cope with the extreme climatic conditions experienced up there but they are not adapted to withstand drought for this length of time. They normally get a very hot and dry spell in the summer but this is followed by autumn rains that help to rejuvenate them but sadly these rains never came.

 Ponds in the village of Erjos that usually fill up in autumn and winter with enough water to carry them through the summer months did not get their seasonal top up. These ponds, which form a unique wildlife haven for water birds, frogs and aquatic insects such as dragonflies and water-beetles, were drying up as early as March. Even tough vegetation like brambles that grow around the ponds have suffered very badly and are dried up and gone brown in the heat. Where tadpoles could normally be seen in large numbers a cracked and barren expanse of dried mud baking in the sun meets the eye.

It is impossible to say how badly hit the wildlife of the island has been by this drought and we can only hope and pray for some equally very unusual summer rainfall, and as much as possible is wanted, if not by the tourists, but by the farmers and the animals and plants that live on the island.

Copyright © 2012 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.

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