A storm hit central and coastal regions of Spain with torrential downpours on September 3, 2023. According to news reports, the low-pressure system flooded streets southwest of Madrid, and caused rivers to spill over their banks and destroy bridges. The downpours came amid a major drought across the country, which has emptied reservoirs and led to water use restrictions.
The flooding was brought on by a low-pressure system that became isolated, or cut-off from the westerly current, causing it to slow down. This type of storm, known as a cut-off low, can produce severe weather and heavy rainfall.
Spain’s eastern and southern coasts saw the heaviest rainfall on September 3, according to the country’s meteorological agency, AEMET. On that day, 172 millimeters (6.8 inches) fell near Cádiz on the southwestern coast. In San Rafael, near Madrid, 158 millimeters (6 inches) fell. In the countryside near Toledo, 90 millimeters (3.5 inches) of rain led to deadly flooding, according to Reuters.
The downpours eased on September 4, when the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the NOAA-20 satellite captured the image above. The storm’s winds carried Saharan dust from Morocco and Algeria over eastern Spain, southern France, and the Atlantic Ocean.
By September 5, skies had mostly cleared over Spain. But on the same day, a similar low-pressure storm dropped over 500 millimeters (20 inches) of rain on central Greece.
NASA Earth Observatory image by Wanmei Liang, using MODIS data from NASA EOSDIS LANCE and GIBS/Worldview. Story by Emily Cassidy.