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Scientists warn of skyrocketing temperatures in Mena region

Dubai: Countries across the Middle East and North Africa could become so unbearably hot that sooner or later many residents may have to leave the region, scientists have warned.

Results of a study conducted by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and the Cyprus Institute in Nicosia indicated that summer temperatures in the region will increase more than twofold, reaching 50 degrees Celsius during the day and not lower than 30 degrees Celsius at night.

“In future, the climate in large parts of the Middle East and North Africa could change in such a manner that the very existence of its inhabitants is in jeopardy,” said Jos Lelieveld, director at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and professor at the Cyprus Institute.

“Climate change will significantly worsen the living conditions in the Middle East and in North Africa. Prolonged heat waves and desert dust storms can render some regions uninhabitable, which will surely contribute to the pressure to migrate.”

Lelieveld and his colleagues have studied what will happen to the temperatures in the region over the course of the 21st century as a result of global warming.

The researchers calculated that by mid-century, temperatures during the hottest periods will not drop below 30 degrees in the evenings and rise to 46 degrees Celsius during daytime. Noon temperatures could hit 50 degrees and heat waves could happen ten times more often.

The duration of heatwaves are forecast to “prolong dramatically” and the number of “unusually hot days” per year is expected to reach 80  by mid-century, instead of the average 16 days.

Contacted by Gulf News, Lelieveld explained that the scenarios they have illustrated, as well as the forecast temperatures, are merely averages for the Mena region, adding that the situation in the UAE and other parts of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region is worse.

“In the Gulf region, the situation is worse, as the baseline summer temperatures are higher. It is important to realise that the summertime warming will be more than twice the global warming,” Lelieveld told Gulf News in an email.

“The Gulf region has the additional problem of being humid. Hot and humid is not a good combination for human health, as the body cannot cool by evaporation.”

The UAE government has done a few initiatives to keep temperatures bearable and generate more rainfall. For instance, since April, a number of cloud seeding operations have been carried out, resulting in brief showers during an otherwise warm period.

In order to mitigate the impact of harsh temperatures, there are some options for Gulf or Mena countries, but cloud seeding may not be one of them. Working towards the reduction of carbon dioxide emission and the utilization of solar energy could be a step in the right direction.

“It will be important to prevent the business-as-usual scenario of CO2 emission to become a reality, and be prepared for further warming in summer,” Lelieveld said.

“There are things one can do, such as the use of solar energy for cooling and fresh water, and city greening. Cloud seeding will not help. This is a technique that has been shown not to work; and if has rained in the UAE in April, this was due to natural reasons, not cloud seeding,” Lelieveld added.

Inhabitants in the Middle East and North Africa account for more than 500 million people. Researchers suggest that the population could drastically reduce if no steps are taken to fight global warming.

“If mankind continues to release carbon dioxide as it does now, people living in the Middle East and North Africa will have to expect about 200 unusually hot days, according to the model projections,” said Panos Hadjinicolaou, Associate Professor at the Cyprus Institute and climate change expert.

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