There is a widespread view that the hamlets and cities that hug the Mediterranean basin are the ultimate in climate, comfort, and culture. Year-round, millions flock to enjoy the mild climate, gastronomy, art and architecture, and the romantic charm of the old world. It is a world that millions have visited through Walcott’s Omeros and his reinvention of Homer’s Odyssey, Cervantes’s Don Quixote, and Schiller’s Ode to Joy. The words in these iconic works are stepping stones. These stones are piled carefully to build a fast-flowing river that transports the reader farther ashore — to that other side. A world that the Cuban intellectual Alejo Carpentier confronts in “The Lost Steps”.

But just as the red fades in the pigment which Van Gogh mixed to paint his violet “Irises”, and the flowers in the vase now appear to be topaz blue, we find an unseasonal burst of colour during a second spring. Dahlias, rhododendrons, and green buds burst with colour among the fallen yellow-brown clumps of Autumn leaves.  Months of above-average temperatures and a record-breaking summer heatwave have changed Mediterranean vineyards that Van Gogh once painted in naphthol red. The climate catastrophe has changed the pigments of everything everywhere in Europe.

A second spring is here. A warm November has caused gardens to burst into life a second time this year.  Exceptionally mild weather in England has caused a “second spring” this November with unseasonable sights across all the gardens managed by the Royal Horticultural Society. Salvias and fuchsias are in full bloom. The life cycles of gardens everywhere in the UK have been disrupted.

Towering temperatures and drought have caused trees to lose their leaves to endure high temperatures and the drought. Strawberry trees are producing twice as much fruit in Powis Castle and Garden near Welshpool. The droughts and scorching heat during the summer this year made many plants die or become dormant like they normally would during the winter. This month the UK has been 2.2C warmer than the average UK November. Plants are consuming many resources to come into bloom now, and this may mean that they may flower later next year.

But the insects that feed off these blossoms will have a disrupted life cycle. In the Mediterranean, mean temperatures across the basin have increased by 1.4 degrees Celsius since the late 19th century, compared with the global average of 1.1 degrees. Temperatures are projected to increase by an additional 1.5 degrees by 2050, according to Wolfgang Cramer, in “Climate change and interconnected risks to sustainable development in the Mediterranean”.

In the Mediterranean, upward temperature shifts are expected to raise hydrological variability that can increase the risk of floods. In November 2022, residents on the island of Ischia, in the Gulf of Naples, were stunned by overnight rains following days of relentless rain in southern Italy. Villas were uprooted by mudslides. Homes dragged into the sea. Cars were compressed by a torrent of mud and debris and pushed into the sea. High winds and heavy rains battered rescue vessels attempting to make an approach from the mainland. Like nearby Capri, Ischia, in the Tyrrhenian Sea, is a holiday destination for travel log readers, Italians, and many Europeans.

A pattern of warm dry summers, and mild winters, has made the Mediterranean climate attractive to tourists and supports the cultivation of valuable crops, especially the many varieties of grapes used to make wine. However, rising temperatures have disrupted time-honoured industries and production models. Climatologists foresee that the number of days with a maximum temperature above 37 degrees may increase in the Mediterranean region, with especially large rises in southern Spain, according to the EURO-CORDEX regional climate model.

In Italy and Portugal, and parts of Greece, rainfall during the warm, dry season of April through September is expected to decline by about 10 per cent by 2030, and as much as 20 per cent by 2050, according to the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI). By 2050, drought conditions could linger for at least six months every year in these areas.

These changing temperature and rainfall patterns may substantially change the Mediterranean climate. It is foreseeable that even under the RCP 4.5 scenario, Madrid’s climate in 2050 may be more like Marrakech’s in Morocco today, while in France Marseille’s climate will resemble that of Algiers in Algeria. Urbanization and population growth will increase the demand for water and worsen water stress in these parts of the Mediterranean.

Water stress is already high in many Mediterranean countries and extremely high in Morocco and Libya. High water stress is defined by a water demand over supply ratio of 0.4 – 0.8. The decline in supply is expected to heighten water stress in all Mediterranean countries between now and 2050, and dwindling supplies may increase competition for water among different sectors of the economy.

The agriculture sector will be a principal competitor in this rivalry. Agriculture accounts for about 80 per cent of water withdrawals in North Africa and about 60 percent in southern Europe, according to FAO Aquastat. Productive estates that are presently irrigated may demand more irrigation, and those that are now rainfed might need to be irrigated.