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20 vintage photographs of Madrid’s snowy past

7 December 2017
Plaza Mayor around 1950

Only under freak weather conditions will we ever see Madrid under a blanket of snow like this again. It’s unlikely, however, as in just the last 44 years Madrid’s average temperature has soared by 2.3°C. To understand how high this is: in the same time, the global average has risen by 0.4°C, which is already causing irreversible damage.

The biggest culprit are the decades of post-dictatorship to pre-crisis urban development. The hasty building of houses, entire neighbourhoods and new industries led to the destruction of thousands of square kilometres of natural heat-dispersing surfaces.

Madrid is also a victim of fashion: there used to be thousands more trees and grassy areas throughout the city but, over the last few decades, these have been cut down and paved over to make the city look more ‘classy’.

Plaza Mayor, 1927

Plaza Mayor with trees, 1927

Pollution from Madrid’s many cars too – especially those that make the daily commute between the city and new suburban developments – have produced a brown boina (beret) of heat-absorbing gases that permanently hovers over Madrid.

Puente Calero

Congestion on Puente Calero

During the day, Madrid’s famously strong sunshine sinks into the city’s surfaces and remains unnaturally trapped inside its buildings, roads and within its pollution. This process of heat absorption builds up and snowballs, until eventually, it just stops snowing.

It’s hard to believe, but until around 20 years ago, Madrid would see far more days like this in winter:

Plaza Mayor around 1950

Plaza Mayor around 1950

Narrow paths were carved into the snow to allow people to walk through the square without accident…

Puerta del Sol, 1945

Puerta del Sol, 1945

Puerta del Sol

Puerta del Sol

It was tough work being a human snowplough…

Puerta del Sol, 1960

Puerta del Sol, 1960

Puerta del Sol

Puerta del Sol

Who ever thought Madrid could look like such a winter wonderland…

Parque del Oeste

Parque del Oeste

Retiro park

Retiro Park

Men cleaning up the snow outside the King's palace

Men cleaning up the snow outside the Royal Palace

Retiro park

Retiro Park

Retiro, 1907

Retiro Park, 1907

You can just imagine the silence and tranquility inside a snow-covered Retiro Park…

Retiro lake, 1960

Retiro lake, 1960

Retiro lake, 1945

Retiro lake, 1945

The small lake in front of the Crystal Palace got so cold for so long that it froze over! This is more like a scene from Germany than Spain…

Skating on the lake outside the Crystal Palace, 1800s

Skating on the lake outside the Crystal Palace, 1800s

Calle Alcalá, 1945

Calle Alcalá, 1945

Gran Vía, 7 December 1960

Gran Vía, 7 December 1960

A slushy Gran Vía with more human snowploughs to the rescue…

Gran Vía

Gran Vía

Snow on Cibeles

Snow on Cibeles

Though both the short and long-term climate models forecast a warm and dry future for Madrid, I do wonder if we’ll ever see scenes like this again, because these days, you just never know.

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1 Comment

Meliss 7 December 2017 at 3:24 pm

Same story all over I fear – I remember days of heavy snowfall. Although, the difference here is quite measurable – thanks for posting!

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