At 53.5°C, Kuwaiti city becomes the hottest place on Earth

    08 Jul 2021

    Rabat-Al-Jahra, a Northern Kuwaiti City, has recorded temperatures of 53.5°C today, Gulf News reported on July 5. This continues the global trend of heatwaves in the summer of 2021.

    This makes Kuwait the hottest place on earth in 2021, surpassing the temperatures reached by its neighbors, such as Iraq and Iran, at 51°C. The Northern city of Nuwaiseeb also recorded a temperature of 53.2°C on July 3.

    Kuwait recorded a temperature of 50°C last month during a heatwave that hit the country. Weather monitoring service, Time and Date, ranks Kuwait and Doha as the world’s hottest capitals, with temperatures reaching 48°C.

    The extremely warm temperatures in Kuwait this summer don’t come as a surprise since the entire globe is experiencing heatwaves and high temperatures, including in Morocco, where temperatures reached highs of 45°C recently.

    This increase in temperatures worldwide brought climate change issues into the global spotlight, raising questions about the reasons for such drastic changes. Additionally, these concerns have been exacerbated by recent accidents, such as the Pemex gas leak, which caused the Gulf of Mexico to catch on fire and spawned an international backlash.

    Why Kuwait is one of the hottest places on earth

    Just in the past two weeks, Kuwait recorded the highest temperatures in the world. On Friday, the temperature in the northern city of Al Jahra touched 53.5°C. Similarly, two weeks ago, Nuwaiseeb, south of Kuwait City on the border with Saudi Arabia, recorded the highest temperature in the world for 2021, with a record 53.2°C.

    “On average during this period, temperatures are not supposed to exceed 46°C, but Kuwait is experiencing temperatures above the average by 3 to 4 degrees,” Essa Ramadan, a Kuwaiti meteorologist, told Gulf News.

    In the past few years, Kuwait has been witnessing sizzling temperatures. Back on July 21, 2016, the northern city of Mitribah reached 53.9 °C making it the hottest recorded temperature on earth ever.

    The ten warmest years in the history of Kuwait have all been recorded since 2005, with the seven hottest having occurred since 2014.

    New normal

    Ramadan explained, “In the 1960s and 1970s, the temperature never reached what we see today. In the past 30 years, we started recording higher temperatures, and the average temperature of 50 degrees became normal.”

    Ramadan said multiple factors contributed to the fact that Kuwait is one of the hottest countries in the world, ranging from its geographical location to the angle of the sun’s rays.

    Solar radiation

    Kuwait’s proximity to the equator naturally makes it prone to higher temperatures. Its location also means Kuwait attracts more solar radiation, which is more than 80 degrees, Ramadan explained.

    According to the Climate Science Investigations (CSI) unit at NASA, the sun’s rays that hit close to the equator result in more direct solar radiation. Thus, the more the solar radiation is concentrated in a small area, the warmer the temperature.

    Ramadan added the combination of low levels of vegetation and trees coupled with growing infrastructure, especially buildings, contributing to the rising temperatures.

    Although Kuwait, a desert country, is typically warmer than most places, the recent spike in temperature has sounded the alarm as it is one of the indications of climate change.

    Samia Al Duaij, an environmental specialist, explained the rise in temperatures, and climate change as a whole, has negatively impacted people’s livelihood in several ways.

    One of the repercussions of high temperatures is people’s health, as exposure to heat for long periods is dangerous as it can lead to dehydration and heat strokes. “People mainly affected by the high temperatures are those who are most vulnerable, those who work under the sun and motorcycle delivery drivers,” she told Gulf News.

    To protect workers, the Public Authority for Manpower (PAM) enforces a yearly decision that bars working outdoors between 11 am to 4 pm from June 1 to August 31.

    The rise, in sea levels

    Another negative impact, according to Al Duaij, is the rise in sea levels. She pointed out that if the temperature continues to increase, sea levels are expected to rise, ending up flooding, in extreme cases even covering Boubyan island and parts of Kuwait’s coast.

    Increased dust storms and reduced levels of rainfalls are also an effect of rising temperatures, Al Duaij mentioned.

    As for infrastructure, due to hot temperatures, people tend to run their air conditioners at full blast for more extended periods, which is highly harmful as AC usage accounts for one of the most enormous consumption of electricity. In turn, high electricity usage puts more pressure on power lines and power stations that emit CO2 and other pollutants.

    Ramadan stated, “Based on studies we conducted, by 2030 the average temperature will increase by 1.5 degrees, by 2050 it will rise by 2.6 degrees and by 2,100 the average temperature will increase by more than 5 degrees.”

    While everyone has a part to play, Al Duaij said that “as a country our CO2 emission is minuscule therefore there needs to be a global response to reduce carbon use.”

    That said, Al Duaij mentioned, “On a local level we can reduce energy consumption by adhering to more sustainable practices like building more environmentally friendly buildings, reducing emissions by improving public transportation and adopting nature-based solutions, like growing trees that emit CO2 while also creating natural shading.”

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