Lost & Found

A nostalgic voyage to Madrid’s winter wonderland

7 December 2017
Plaza Mayor around 1950

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.

Plaza Mayor, 1927

Plaza Mayor with trees, 1927

Puente Calero

Congestion on Puente Calero

Plaza Mayor around 1950

Plaza Mayor around 1950

Puerta del Sol, 1945

Puerta del Sol, 1945

Puerta del Sol

Puerta del Sol

Puerta del Sol, 1960

Puerta del Sol, 1960

Puerta del Sol

Puerta del Sol

Parque del Oeste

Parque del Oeste

Retiro park

Retiro Park

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.

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

Retiro lake, 1960

Retiro lake, 1960

Retiro lake, 1945

Retiro lake, 1945

Skating on the lake outside the Crystal Palace, 1800s

Skating on the lake outside the Crystal Palace, 1800s

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.

Calle Alcalá, 1945

Calle Alcalá, 1945

Gran Vía, 7 December 1960

Gran Vía, 7 December 1960

Gran Vía

Gran Vía

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.

Snow on Cibeles

Snow on Cibeles

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.

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2 Comments

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!

Reply
SC 16 December 2018 at 3:02 pm

There is no Planet B. We need to take care of the one we have.

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