By: George Kurzom
Sheep graze in the dry spring of Al-Oja in the Jordan valley, where water usually flows abundantly during spring
Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons:
Measurements taken in Palestine over the past thirty years demonstrate a clear tendency to warming. Palestine is located in the area exposed to the risk of a desertification process that according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will affect North Africa and countries in the Mediterranean basin, as well as large areas of Asia, which means that the global climatic trend largely apply to our Arab region.
The rainy season of 2013/14 in Palestine was the driest in the documented history of Palestinian climate. In the period between 15 December 2013 and 9 March 2014, Palestine witnessed an almost complete lack of rains for over 80 days. The same period was also characterized by successive waves of high temperatures above the annual average. During January and February and in early March, temperature was several times higher than its annual average by 10-13 °C. In the current year rainy season also (2018), we witnessed an increase of temperature above the annual average by around 9-12 °C.
According to available climate measurements, since 1950 and to date, the last twenty years have probably been the warmest.
Although our weather has evidently become warmer, we should take caution not to attribute every case of extreme weather condition to the global warming, as such relation is not necessarily always present. In fact, a large number of extreme weather events occurred earlier than any mention of global warming or climate change in our region. Interestingly, the highest temperature recorded in Palestine so far was in 1942.
Likewise, human activity does not necessarily have the exclusive responsibility for acute climate fluctuations affecting us. Not all extreme weather events can be associated with climate changes resulting from human activity, as many “extreme” weather events are part of natural changes. However, this notion does not contradict the fact that global warming is ongoing and that humans have a role in this warming process.
Despite the state-of-the-art meteorological technology and advanced climate models, we cannot provide accurate projections of future extreme weather events. Generally speaking, projections indicate that approaching the end of the 21st century, the probability of heat waves will increase. This tendency is already felt in practice during the current period, as we are noticing frequent serious heat waves for long periods of time and in short intervals. Until July 2016, the month of August 2015 was the hottest of all previous Augusts ever documented. The same applies to September 2015, which was the warmest among all Septembers since the documentation of weather conditions began.
Although scientific estimates report that an increase of more than 2 °C in the Earth’s surface temperature may lead to serious climate changes, many scientists expect that the impact of the global warming phenomenon will increase at the end of the 21st century when the average increase in the Earth’s surface temperature will reach 4-5 °C. This increase is expected to generate acute climate changes reflected in massive evaporation of fresh water resources and consequently, a serious scarcity of fresh water and severe drought, in addition to huge increases in the amount and intensity of rainfall in some areas and in very short intervals, which will devastate agricultural production. Remarkably, in recent years, we started to witness the occurrence of such climate phenomena in Palestine and the Arab region in general.
The high and frequent heat waves in recent years have caused sizeable losses to the Palestinian agriculture. Agronomists estimate that losses will continue as long as temperature keeps hitting record figures. This has a significant impact on marketing since extreme weathers raise the prices both in the local and global markets.
Additionally, winter vegetables and fruits are also suffering from economic problems, as in dry winter seasons, the prices of winter fruits, and circuses in particular, increase significantly.