We remember 2021 because of the Middle East heatwave: temperatures top 50° C in several countries

    22 Dec 2021

    Oman, Iran, Kuwait and the UAE were all affected in summer 2021, as extreme temperatures were recorded across the region. Let’s call to memory how it was, thanks to Middle East Eye.

    Four countries in the Middle East saw temperatures surpass 50° C amid a continuing pattern of record-breaking heat for the time of year.

    Oman, Iran, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) all saw temperatures that matched or challenged national records, as temperatures reached several degrees above normal.

    Temperatures hit 51C in Sweihan, a small town around 80 km east of Abu Dhabi in the UAE. Omidieh in southwestern Iran also climbed to 51C, while Jahra, in Kuwait, managed 50.88° C, the Washington Post reported.

    Sunaynah, an inland desert town in northern Oman, recorded a temperature of 50.11° C.

    Temperatures rising close to or above 49° C can melt crayons, warp railway tracks, soften asphalt and extend the takeoff distance of aeroplanes, the US newspaper noted.

    Sweihan recorded an even higher temperature, at 51.77° C, marking the hottest June temperature ever seen in the UAE and tying the Gulf nation’s record.

    Such extreme heat has already been documented as significantly increasing in frequency in the Middle East and North Africa region.


    Last year, a study published in Science Advances, suggested that parts of the Middle East, particularly the Gulf, might become uninhabitable for humans if current trends continue.

    In summer 2021, findings published in Nature Climate Change, found that more than a third of summer heat-related fatalities were due to climate change, warning of even higher death tolls as global temperatures climb.

    Kuwait was among half-a-dozen countries in the report where it was found that the percentage of heat-related deaths caused by climate change was 60% or more.


    Climate crisis: Cities in Egypt and Iraq could be wiped out by 2050

    Research by Climate Central triples estimates of number of coastal residents vulnerable to rising sea levels

    Major coastal cities in Egypt and Iraq could be decimated by 2050 as a result of rising sea levels, a new report has revealed.

    Research conducted by Climate Central, a US-based non-profit news organisation, has tripled initial estimates of global vulnerability to sea level rises and coastal flooding.

    According to Climate Central’s findings, major cities in Asia are at risk of being potentially wiped out and there are concerns for Alexandria in Egypt and Basra in Iraq.

    The revised estimates, published in the journal Nature Communications, are based on analysis of coastal topography around the world. 

    Previous models have used satellite data which exaggerated the altitude of land because of tall buildings and trees.


    Displaced people, sinking cities

    Climate Central’s data shows that Basra, Iraq’s second biggest city, could be partially submerged as a result of rising sea waters, leading to thousands becoming displaced from their homes.

    John Castellaw, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant general who was chief of staff for the United States Central Command during the Iraq War, said that rising seawaters could fuel instability in the region.

    They could, Castellaw told the New York Times, “threaten to drive further social and political instability in the region, which could reignite armed conflict and increase the likelihood of terrorism.”

    He added: “So this is far more than an environmental problem… it’s a humanitarian, security and possibly military problem too.”

    The research also showed that the historic city of Alexandria in Egypt could be completely submerged and lost to the sea, compounding concerns that parts of the city are already sinking due to rising levels.

    In 2017, scientists warned that climate change means that the countries in the Middle East and North African are susceptible to some of the most severe consequences of warming.

    Benjamin Cook, a Nasa scientist at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, told Middle East Eye that the region should “expect reduced rainfall, increased intensity and occurrence of droughts, and much more severe heat extremes”.

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