A new study is warning against a climate scenario that could see large populations in the Middle East and North Africa region become forcibly displaced because of extreme weather conditions.
“Climate change will significantly worsen the living conditions in the Middle East and in North Africa,” says the study’s lead researcher Jos Lelieveld of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Mainz, Germany. “Prolonged heat waves and desert dust storms can render some regions uninhabitable, which will surely contribute to the pressure to migrate.”
The hot desert climate [will] intensify and become more extreme if global greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase, states the study. The number of warm days and nights may increase sharply. And on average, the maximum temperature in the hottest days will rise from its current level of 43 °C to 50 °C by the end of the century.
Heat waves will occur more frequently, and last significantly longer, according to the study. At present day, it’s extremely hot for an average of 16 days. But by mid-century, the number of hot days will spike, reaching 80 per year. And by the century’s end, the region will go through an 118-day-long extreme heat wave, as per Lelieveld et al.
The extreme heat might also cause higher rates of premature mortality, and a range of cerebrovascular and heart diseases. Combined with increasing air pollution by windblown desert dust, “the environmental conditions could become intolerable,” says Lelieveld.
Last October, Lelieveld and colleagues proposed another chilling vision of the Gulf countries predicting a heat wave so extreme that it could render some major cities like Dubai and Doha uninhabitable by the turn of this century. They also recently published findings that showed that desert dust in the atmosphere over Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Syria has increased up to 70% since the beginning of this century, as a result of prolonged droughts and an increase in sand storms.
The new study, published in the Springer journal Climatic Change, is an extension of Lelieveld and colleagues’ work into how different regions are affected by climate warming.
In the Middle East, the unrelenting rise in global temperatures will “enhance the already hot and dry environmental conditions,” states the study, which followed efforts to improve data access and analyze climate indices in a region that has typically suffered from restricted availability of meteorological data sets.
The study considers two scenarios: one that saw greenhouse gas emissions decreasing and the other (a business as usual scenario) saw no change. Under both scenarios, the heat levels in the Middle East would increase; four folds and two folds respectively.
“Even if climate change in the 21st century will be limited to a global mean temperature increase of 2 °C relative to pre-industrial times, warming over land is typically stronger than over the oceans and extreme temperatures in many regions can increase well beyond 2 °C,” says the study.
Sooner or later, many people will have to leave, the researchers predict.