Middle East Searing Heat May Spark Climate Refugees

The rising sun is partially obscured by a dawn dust storm in Iraq. Image: Elliott Plack via FlickrThe rising sun is partially obscured by a dawn dust storm in Iraq. Image: Elliott Plack via Flickr

Temperatures in the Middle East and North Africa could reach unbearably high levels that would make some regions uninhabitable and increase the pressures of climate refugees.

Parts of the Middle East and North Africa could become unbearably hot if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.

New research predicts that, by mid-century, summer temperatures will stay above 30°C at night and could rise to 46°C during the day. By the end of the century, maximum temperatures could reach 50°C, and this could happen more often. Instead of 16 days of extreme heat, there could be 80 days.

“In future, the climate in large parts of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) could change in such a manner that the very existence of its inhabitants is in jeopardy,” says Jos Lelieveld, director of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany.

He and colleagues report in Climatic Change journal that they used computer models to explore changes in temperature patterns in the MENA region in the 21st century. Global warming happens unevenly, and many regions are experiencing warmer winters – with earlier growing seasons – but not necessarily many more extremes in summer heat.

Sweltering days

But the pattern around the Eastern Mediterranean and in the landscapes of Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco is one of increasing summer heat.

Between 1986 and 2005, the average number of “very hot” days was 16. By mid-century, this could reach 80 days a year. By the end of the century, even if greenhouse gas emissions decline after 2040, the number of sweltering days could soar to 118.

“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,” says Panos Hadjinicolaou, associate professor at the Cyprus Institute and a co-author of the report.

Prof Lelieveld and another co-author from the Cyprus Institute took part in a study of changing atmospheric conditions, to see what aerosol concentrations in the atmosphere could tell climate science about soil moisture trends in the region’s arid landscapes.

“Prolonged heatwaves and desert dust storms can render some regions uninhabitable, which will surely contribute to the pressure to migrate”

They report in the Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics journal that as soils have dried, dust emissions have increased – by 70% over Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Syria since the beginning of this century.

Climate researchers have repeatedly warned that extremes of heat will become the “new normal” at most latitudes. However, those countries that already experience the most relentless summer heat could become increasingly unhealthy and unstable.

Extremes of drought have been linked to the fall of ancient civilisations in the region, as well as to the present conflict in Syria and to the growth in the refugee population in Europe and the Middle East.

Near-lethal conditions

One research team recently took a close look not just at heat but at potential humidity levels around the Gulf, and found that conditions could in some circumstances one day become near-lethal. So the latest studies are more confirmation than revelation.

The researchers considered what would happen if the world adopted the notorious “business-as-usual” scenario and did nothing significant to control greenhouse gas emissions.

They also considered a scenario in which the world tried to contain global warming to a 2°C average above historic levels, and in which global emissions began to decrease by 2040. But, even under this scenario, summer temperatures in the region would get to 46°C by mid-century.

“Climate change will significantly worsen the living conditions in the Middle East and in North Africa,” Professor Lelieveld says. “Prolonged heatwaves and desert dust storms can render some regions uninhabitable, which will surely contribute to the pressure to migrate.” – Climate News Network

About the Author

Tim Radford, freelance journalistTim Radford is a freelance journalist. He worked for The Guardian for 32 years, becoming (among other things) letters editor, arts editor, literary editor and science editor. He won the Association of British Science Writers award for science writer of the year four times. He served on the UK committee for the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction. He has lectured about science and the media in dozens of British and foreign cities. 

Science that Changed the World: The untold story of the other 1960s revolutionBook by this Author:

Science that Changed the World: The untold story of the other 1960s revolution
by Tim Radford.

Click here for more info and/or to order this book on Amazon. (Kindle book)

English Afrikaans Arabic Chinese (Simplified) Chinese (Traditional) Dutch Filipino French German Hindi Indonesian Italian Japanese Korean Malay Persian Portuguese Russian Spanish Swahili Swedish Thai Turkish Urdu Vietnamese

LATEST VIDEOS

Jay Inslee Tells Hayes That He Wants To Gut The Filibuster To Fight Climate Change
by MSNBC
Washington Governor Jay Inslee is running for president on the single issue of climate change and argues that doing…
Causes and Effects of Climate Change
by National Geographic
What causes climate change (also known as global warming)? And what are the effects of climate change? Learn the human…
Extreme Weather and Global Warming
by NASA Goddard
Is the frequency of extreme weather events a sign that global warming is gaining pace and exceeding predictions? Bill…
Thanks to Climate Change, Wet Winters No Match for Drier California Summers
by KPIX CBS SF Bay Area
If the emerald-green hills around Northern California have you thinking recent rains have put a damper on the fire…
Climate Change Is Not One Issue
by MSNBC
"Climate change is not one issue," said David Wallace-Wells, author of "The Uninhabitable Earth," but is…
The Heat: Climate change
by CGTN America
Images gathered by NASA show an increase in foliage in China and India. The greening effect is mainly due to ambitious…
No company is doing enough to combat climate change: Jeremy Grantham
by CNBC Television
Jeremy Grantham, co-founder of GMO, on climate change and what needs to be done to combat it.
Power Plants Are POISONING Groundwater All Over America
by The Ring of Fire
According to a new report, 90% of coal-fired power plants across the country have completely contaminated the…

LATEST ARTICLES

Default Image
Come on, UK weather forecasters – tell it like it is on climate change
by Adam Corner
They have a national reach that most climate campaigners would die for. They are familiar and respected experts on the…
Green New Deal: 6 places already reducing emissions from buildings
Green New Deal: 6 places already reducing emissions from buildings
by David Roberts
One of the elements of the Green New Deal resolution that has caused the most consternation among critics on the right…
Default Image
UK environmentalists target Barclays in fossil fuels campaign
by Matthew Taylor
A UK-wide campaign is being launched to persuade one of the country’s biggest high street banks to stop investing…
Oceanic carbon uptake could falter
Oceanic carbon uptake could falter
by Tim Radford
What does oceanic carbon uptake achieve? Greenhouse gas that sinks below the waves slows global warming a little and…
Britain (Yes, Rainy Britain) Could Run Short of Water by 2050, Official Says
Britain (Yes, Rainy Britain) Could Run Short of Water by 2050, Official Says
by Global Warming & Climate Change
“Climate change plus growth equals an existential threat,” Mr. Bevan said. To avoid severe water shortages, he added,…
Default Image
Record high US temperatures outpace record lows two to one, study finds
by Associated Press
Over the past 20 years, Americans have been twice as likely to sweat through record-breaking heat rather than shiver…
Climate change: Water shortages in England 'within 25 years'
Climate change: Water shortages in England 'within 25 years'
by BBC News - Science & Environment
Image copyright PA Image caption Low water levels at Wayoh Reservoir near Bolton in the UK heatwave in July 2018 Within…
Default Image
Why you'll never meet a white supremacist who cares about climate change
by Rebecca Solnit
As the news of the Christchurch mosque massacre broke and I scoured the news, I came across a map showing that the…