11th July 202010th July 2020
by Kyriacos Kiliaris
7 mins read
Cyprus is feeling the impact of global warming witnessing extreme climate conditions, unpredictable weather patterns, floods, unseasonal pressure systems, fires, extreme heat and cold, argue scientists.
Just in the past month, Cyprus has witnessed four cases of unseasonal weather conditions, with experts warning these are signs of climate change.
A low-pressure system this week had pushed temperatures down by six degrees following a heatwave, leaving Cyprus weather experts puzzled with evidence pointing to climate change.
Maximum temperatures were pushed down from a scorching 41֯ C to 35֯ C in just a couple of days, accompanied by local thunderstorms, as a pressure system common during the winter and not in July when temperatures reach their annual high.
Cyprus Department of Meteorology chief Kleanthis Nicolaides told the Financial Mirror, experts are puzzled as to why the weather is acting up, noting that climate change due to global warming has set the stage for some extreme and unseasonal weather events.
“We wouldn’t say the weather has gone crazy, but it is certainly not behaving according to the textbook either,” said Nicolaides.
“It is not normal to be affected by a winter pressure system during the summer, bringing temperatures down from 41°C to 35°C in a matter of days, only for them to go back up to 41°C this weekend when the system retreats.”
He said such phenomena are not common to Cyprus and the region, noting they usually take place in northern parts of the planet, like Scandinavia.
Nicolaides believes a pattern is building up, as similar pressure systems affected Cyprus on at least three occasions in June.
“If you recall, we witnessed a drop in temperatures and rainfall during three out the four weekends in June. The atmosphere is behaving as if it is still winter.”
He argued that such phenomena have not only been observed in the region but have taken place in other parts of the world too.
“Germany experienced two seasons in just a week in June. While it was experiencing very hot weather, things turned around and winter returned with temperatures dropping to 5֯ C.”
Nicolaides argued that climate change is behind several recent ‘weird’ weather incidents across the globe.
He noted that such events need to be studied at an international level to form an understanding as to what extent the climate is changing and what changes are permanent.
“According to models predicting climate and weather conditions in the future, show that Cyprus will undergo a process of desertification in the coming decades.
The island is forecast to have similar climate conditions to those prevailing today in Egypt’s Cairo.”
Nicolaides argued these changes would see Cyprus’ high-end temperature reaching 50֯ C, 3.5 degrees Celsius above the record 46.6°C recorded a few years ago.
“Areas such as Larnaca could find themselves underwater, while drinking water will become scarce in the wider region, leading to political conflicts.”
Middle East sandstorms
Jos Lelieveld a Dutch atmospheric chemist said that analyses of data from Cyprus and the region indicate clearly that extreme weather events are ever-increasing.
Lelieveld, director of the Atmospheric Chemistry Department at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz and professor at the Cyprus Institute, said the Mediterranean is getting warmer, which means that more precipitation is to be expected.
“Model calculations show that extreme weather events are on the cards, which, according to calculations will continue over the next few decades.”
Lelieveld said that according to measurements, temperatures in Cyprus have gone up by 1֯ C since the beginning of the 21st century and are expected to rise more over the coming decades.
He noted that Cyprus will get warmer, but it is lucky enough to be surrounded by the sea, the cool sea wind will keep temperatures in check.
“In the Middle East, however, we will be witnessing more extreme weather events, with places like Iraq and Kuwait undergoing a desertification process.
This will affect Cyprus, as sandstorms will be carrying dust to the island more frequently.”
Cyprus, although not in immediate danger of desertification will have to be on its toes and invest in a number of projects to avoid such a process.
“Apart from being cooled by sea breezes, the vast majority of land in Cyprus is managed, either because it is agricultural land or otherwise utilized.
However, the country will be running a higher fire risk which could push towards some areas becoming trier and running the risk of desertification,” said Lelieveld.
He also noted that as extreme weather events become more frequent, Cyprus will see more precipitation over a shorter period.
“What this means is that less water will be drawn by the ground to underground water reserves, with large quantities of water finding their way to the sea before it is absorbed by the ground”.
Cyprus will probably not find itself in the middle of a dispute involving water, as it has invested in building desalination facilities which can cover the island’s water needs.
“However, tensions in Africa and the Middle East building up over water supplies, should sound the alarm and push us to further invest in desalination projects.
These projects can be expensive, but Cyprus could be clever and combine them with Renewable Energy investments which would solve a number of issues,” said Lelieveld.
“Climate change is real, it’s here, and unfortunately there is not much Cyprus can do to reverse or stop the process.
What the country must do, is make the necessary investments and be prepared for the changes coming.”