Will a summery hamsin in early November become the new normal? Israel is currently experiencing considerably higher temperatures than the average for this time of year. According to the Israel Meteorological Service, the warm weather will continue over the next few days. The heatwave, though unusual, is not unprecedented, but a new study indicates that without a change in policy on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and dealing with the climate crisis, the warm, dry November of 2021 will become a regular phenomenon.
The study by a group of researchers from around the world, among them Dr. Assaf Hochman of the Institute of Earth Sciences at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, finds that, because of the effect of man-made greenhouse gas emissions on the climate, winters in Israel will become warmer and drier, but will also be characterized by storms "of previously unknown severity."
The study was published in the periodical "Climate Dynamics". The researchers sought to examine how the Eastern Mediterranean region and Israel will be affected by climate change in the coming decades, in a scenario in which there is no decline in greenhouse gas emissions. The researchers found that, with the rise in concentration of greenhouse gases, the frequency of rainstorms in the region will decline by about 30%. The quantity of rain will also decline, by about 25%, and wind strength will decline too.
The forecast is that the Eastern Mediterranean and Israel will experience very dry winters, but that when the rains do come, they will hit hard, with very high rainfall over short periods. The researchers say that these changes will drastically affect life in Israel, which relies on agriculture that needs a stable climate, and that the country could be hard hit in various ways by extreme events such as floods and fires.
One of the most obvious consequences of climate change is a rise in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events. The Mediterranean is considered a "hot spot" for climate change, as it is characterized by greater rises in temperature than other regions, and by more extreme changes in the cyclones that occur in it.
In order to predict how human beings will be affected by the changes, climate researchers use models that examine how the earth's climate systems will respond to a rise in concentration of greenhouse gases, which accumulate in the atmosphere mainly because of the burning of fossil fuels. In the current study, the researchers used models capable of predicting the advent and strength of winter cyclones in the Mediterranean in the coming decades.
"We see that that a rise in greenhouse gas emissions affects the frequency and strength of cyclones. There is a decline in daily quantities of rain and in wind speeds, but if you look at an hourly resolution, the strength over short periods rises. We'll receive less rain overall, but when there is rain, it will be strong and will cause flooding," says Hochman. "If the situation remains as it is, the results will be catastrophic."
Sea will inundate land
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a global struggle. One country cannot tip the scales, and broad action is required with common goals. But Hochman stresses that Israel has a clear interest in action being taken, even at the local level. "We need to prepare from the point of view of drainage infrastructure and coastal defense. Strong storms over short periods will cause the sea to inundate the land, and there will be an increased tendency to flooding in low-lying areas of coastal cities. If we continue to pave the Dan region with concrete without taking climate into consideration, the floods will damage us even more. This is just one example. We have solutions, we don't have to invent anything new. There are plans that need to be implemented swiftly in all areas of life."
As Israel undergoes its hot November, eyes are turned to the UN Climate Change Conference taking place in Glasgow, where politicians and delegations from 190 countries are assembled to reach agreements on reducing emissions and dealing with climate change issues. So far, international leaders have come up with no substantial message, while reality is proceeding in accordance with Dr. Hochman's model.
According to the UN's reports, the most up-to-date plans for dealing with the climate crisis and reducing emissions will result in a 7.5% reduction by 2030, which compares with a 50% reduction required this decade in order to prevent a catastrophic rise in average temperatures of 3 degrees by the end of the century.
Many world leaders are pinning their hopes on future technologies. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is one of them. Dr. Hochman suggests that we should not rely on technologies that have yet to be developed, and should act now to reduce emissions drastically using existing means: a switch to renewable energy and protection of natural ecological systems.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on November 10, 2021.
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