Under a blanket of snow, I imagine Madrid to be as silent as the night. Not even a gust of wind could echo through the streets, never mind the infamous Madrileño hum.
For those of us who arrived in Madrid in the last decade, the time-travelling journey that we’re about to embark on feels a little make-believe, but trust me – this really happened.
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, as we know, is causing terrible things to happen. The biggest culprit is the pre-crisis property boom, leading to the disappearance of thousands of square kilometres of natural heat-dispersing surfaces.
Madrid is also a fashion victim. There used to be thousands more trees and parks throughout the city but, over the last few decades, the conservative government got rid of them to make the city look more ‘classy’, like a northern European city.
Pollution from Madrid’s cars too – especially those that make the daily commute between the city and newer, sprawling urban developments – have produced a brown boina (beret) of heat-absorbing gases that permanently hovers over Madrid.
During the day, Madrid’s strong sunshine sinks into the city’s surfaces and remains trapped inside buildings, roads and within pollution, then releasing this heat at night. This process of heat absorption builds up and up, until eventually, it’s too warm for snow to lie, or even fall.
Though climate models forecast a warm and dry future for Madrid, we may well see scenes like this again, even if it’s just briefly. Because if we believe hard enough that it’s possible (perhaps with a sprinkling of environmentalism too), maybe Madrid lost winter wonderland will magically reappear.