Dante’s Inferno & Noah’s Inundation All in One Day…
The up & downs of climate change in rural Spain.
“Upon some cliff reclined, beneath him sees fireflies innumerous spangling o’er the vale, vineyard or tilth, where his day-labour lies; with flames so numberless throughout its space shone the eighth chasm, apparent, when the depth was to my view exposed.”
Canto 26: The Inferno, Dante Alighieri.
Yesterday was a day of days.
We haven’t had a drop of rain since mid-May, and the last two months have been relentlessly hot. We’ve followed the news of raging forest fires, or incendios (in Spanish), elsewhere in Spain with some trepidation, and with the fervent hope that we will escape.
And we did. Until yesterday.
The quote above sees Dante descend the steps from the seventh gulf, when he sees the eighth chasm stretching out before him, engulfed in the flames that ceaselessly punish the evil.
And that is just how I felt as we watched the pillars of brown, suffocating smoke grow, spread their wickedness across the skies, and begin their inexorable, unstoppable march in our direction.
The fire itself, in its third day, had started behind a mountain range that loops behind our house, and encircle us in a granite horseshoe that opens out into rich, alluvial plains split by the Rio Turia, that ease down to the coast and the city of Valencia. The mountains, a ring of long extinct volcanoes called, rather inappropriately in this case, Las Calderonas, often as not protect us from the worst of the Winter weather, bu they can also stop much of the rain that develops across the high plateaus of the interior from reaching us.
This Summer has been inordinately hot and dry.
And this has been the first fire that has come close to where we live. It had started some 25kms or so (as the crow flies) from where we live, but we were separated by the mountains and several, winding ridgetops and deep, sometimes vertiginous, slopes and valleys.
But past experience has shown us that geography is no protection from the ravages of nature.
I checked the weather forecast, and was rewarded by the high percentage prospect of rainfall. Phew! We should be okay.
As the pillars of brown smoke smeared the sky, high above cumulo-nimbus clouds were billowing and growing. A sure sign of a coming storm.
As late afternoon arrived I checked again. The fire was much closer now. Twitter was telling me the fire was on the edges of a town barely 7 kms from where we live. I looked at the weather forecast again. When is the rain coming?
To my dismay, the high percentage had dwindled. I looked for the storm clouds and struggled to distinguish them from the pillars of smoke. The rain wasn’t coming!
As darkness approached the sky was crimson, and the wind was picking up. I stood on my terrace straining my eyes to see if I could yet see any flames, and as I scanned the scorched skies the wind was covering me with ash. I could see live embers landing all around.
I was really scared.
Darkness fell, and above the crimson vista an electric storm was lighting the whole mountain range. It looked like the end of the world. We began to talk of where we would run to, who we would run to, how we would carry our animals.
I went back to the terrace. The house was choking. The smoke was inescapable and filling the house. I covered my mouth, put glasses on to shield my eyes from any rogue embers and moved onto the terrace.
The fire was close now, and as I stood there, I felt a spot of rain. I grabbed my phone, checking once again. But the news was grim. We’d gone from a 97% chance of rain to zero.
We were doomed.
“…the fountains of the Great Deep burst apart and the floodgates of heaven broke open…”
But then…another spot, and another, and another. Then as I looked up high, a huge thunderclap signalled the opening of the heavens.
The bible tells us that Noah’s flood also arrived on the 17th day of the month, and as the tears came down my face, rain of epic proportions first dimmed, then extinguished the red skies. The farm tracks that run down the side of the hill where we live and serve as our driveways were like wild rivers, and our terrace was under 5cm or more of rain, so heavy was it that it couldn’t drain away fast enough.
The storm shook the house for an hour or more and what had been aflame was now underwater.
In the space of one evening we had experienced two extreme consequences of climate change, and whilst I was grateful for the flood the long term consequences of such extreme events are worrying to say the least.
I’d like to say that during this eventful evening I had the presence of mind to record some of it in pictures, but fear and then elation robbed me of any composure, thus I have shared a couple of videos from the Twitter feed.
This is not my normal type of post, but climate change worries me, and I’m scared for the future we are leaving our children and grandchildren. To think that days such as this will become all the more common for many in the future is not a pleasant or happy thought at all.
Please do what you can to limit your carbon footprint.