By: George Kurzom
Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons (Afaq magazine):
A recent research published in the International Journal of Climatology shows that warming, as a trend, has continued in Palestine over the last seven decades, and has intensified in the last three decades. In parallel, there is a clear decreasing trend in the amount of precipitation, which is mainly evident following the few extreme weather events. The data of the research is based on an analysis of extreme weather conditions measured in terms of temperature and rainfall in different parts of the Palestine.
The research has also shown that over the past three decades there has been a significant increase in the number of high-temperature periods, namely, when the maximum temperature, for at least six consecutive days, is in the range of high temperatures for that year. Over the past three decades, the number of such periods has increased by eight days per decade, compared to 1961-1990.
There was also a 7% rise in the number of particularly hot nights, and a decrease in the number of exceptional cold nights. With the exception of five years, winter over the past three decades has been hotter than the average of the period of 1961-1990. The increase in the number of particularly hot nights caused heat stress, which also affected, significantly, the energy consumption and crop growth.
The research indicated a decrease in the number of days that have precipitation of ten millimeters or more. Spatially, the research concluded that in recent decades, heat stress in the Palestinian coastal area has increased specifically during the night hours, whereas in mountainous areas, heat stress has increased mainly during the afternoons.
In line with the previous research, "Afaq" Environment and Development magazine kept a watching eye on the climatic situation that characterized last July. It became evident that the khamasini· weather, with its extreme heat that prevailed over Palestine on the 17th of July, peaked in the south registering 49.9° Celsius.
According to the Climate History Survey in Palestine, this is the highest temperature measured in nearly 70 years, and the second (hottest) since recordings began in Palestine in the 1920s; the hottest temperature measured in Palestine was 54° C, in June 1942 in the northern Jordan Valley.
Extreme Khamasini Conditions
The climate survey done by "Afaq" Environment and Development magazine states that extreme temperatures have also been recorded in the distant past. However, record highs in absolute temperatures in recent years reflect the fact that global warming affects not only average temperatures, but also extreme temperatures.
Although it is difficult to relate an isolated event to climate change, warming will continue, according to best estimates. It is also expected to witness an increase in the number of extreme heat waves, along with a higher probability of setting new records in surplus temperatures.
The source of extreme heat was a wave of khamasini, one unusual for July. This wave hit all parts of the country, where temperatures in the Jordan Valley and Wadi Araba reached between 43-46° C. In other southern regions it reached 48.5° C. The July wave recorded 42-40° C in the coastal plain, lowlands, the northern Naqab, and the northern valleys; 43-42° C in the center of the Naqab, 39-37° C in the coastal strip, and 34 to 36° C in mountainous areas. High temperatures were accompanied by severe drought with relative humidity ranging from 10% to 25% across the country, including the coastline.
Recorded temperatures in the coastal plain and lowlands struck record high for July, breaking the previous record by one and a half degrees Celsius. Even in the northern Naqab, new records were struck for July. Extreme khamasini of this type at the height of the summer is uncommon in the coastal plain and lowlands. Often during the months of July when there are hot khamasini conditions in the mountains and in the inner lands, the coastal plain and lowlands usually witness sweltering weather (hot and humid) leading to slight mild temperatures. However, during the heat waves in the last July, drought and extreme heat reached the coastal plain and lowlands.
Extreme khamasini conditions at the height of the summer months in the coastal plain, in specific, used to occur in the past, every five to ten years. But in the last decade, they occurred more frequently, precisely every two to three years.
The Highest Increase in Emissions since 2011
The year 2018 saw an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, despite global efforts to reduce emissions. According to British Petroleum’s annual report, the biggest jump in carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, since the begging of the current decade, occurred last year. However, the authors noted that there is also a jump in the production of renewable energy, and that the renewable energy sector has expanded much more rapidly than fossil fuel-based energy production (oil, coal, and gas).
According to the same report, which is considered to be the most comprehensive survey of the global energy sector, during 2018, humanity released greenhouse gases into the atmosphere with a 2% increase compared to 2017, especially the carbon. In contrast, humanity has consumed more energy by 2.9%. It also recorded an increase of 645 million tons in carbon dioxide emissions. In 2018, total emissions amounted to 33,685 million tons—the largest increase in greenhouse gas emissions since 2011.
Most of the increase in the energy demand was recorded in India, China, and the United States. Among other things, the increase in emissions is due to two main reasons: the first is the high standard of living in Asia, and the connection of many homes with electricity. The second is the climate crisis, which generates extreme weather events, especially very hot or very cold conditions, thus resulting in increased energy consumption, for cooling or heating.
The Guardian quoted Spencer Dale, chief economist at BP, that the increase in emissions was equivalent to an additional 400 million cars - with an internal combustion engine - on the streets of the world. He said that extreme weather events increase demand, thus forming an endless cycle. According to Dale, if there is a link between the growing levels of carbon in the atmosphere and the types of weather patterns observed in 2018 this would raise the possibility of a worrying vicious cycle: increasing levels of carbon leading to more extreme weather patterns, which in turn trigger stronger growth in energy (and carbon emissions).
The past year has been marked by an increase in emissions, despite the commitment of most countries to reduce their emissions to meet the targets set at the Paris Climate Conference (2015), which were re-affirmed last year. This came as a result of a worldwide protest movement that gained momentum in recent months, demanding tougher action to halt greenhouse gas emissions to face the climate crisis. Ironically, these pressures are also directed at BP (the author of the report), and its competitors in the field of gas and oil. It’s worth noting that although BP agreed, at the beginning of this year, to set goals to reduce its emissions and embark on achieving the goals set at the Paris Climate Conference, activist are pressing the company to do more.
Nevertheless, the BP report included a bright spot regarding the development of the renewable energy sector: solar energy, wind energy, hydroelectricity, and biomass. Over the past year, renewables increased worldwide by 14.5%. China, who is considered a pioneer in the sector of renewable energy, had achieved during 2018, a growth in green energy greater than in all other OECD countries.
It is worth mentioning that the United Nations published, about six months ago, a climate report that confirmed that we are left only with 12 years (by 2030) to stop the climate crisis through a significant reduction in emissions. In the absence of such a reduction, the global average temperature will rise by more than 2° C, and will cause devastating damage to the planet, humans, and ecosystems.
Translated by: Carol Khoury
· Khamsini indicates a period of approximately 50 days, in which dry, hot, and sandy local wind affect the region - translator.