In Pictures: A Levant Winter

The first significant winter storm of the season brings brief happiness to some but misery to many.

| | Weather

This is not the first winter storm at the eastern end of the Mediterranean but it is the first one far enough east and vicious enough to bring wind chill, rain and snow to the Levant.

The Mediterranean Sea is still surprisingly warm at around 19C off the coast of Israel but rather than warming up the incoming winter, it simply adds fuel to the fire, by evaporating yet more moisture into the storm that comes out as snow!

The first noticeable sign of the build-up overland was a sandstorm in Egypt which dropped the visibility in Cairo to 1000m on Tuesday. Then another, lasting about six hours on Wednesday, reduced the visibility to 500m in Minya, south of Cairo.

Unfortunately, since Wednesday morning the wind brought rather more than sandstorms to the Levant, from Syria to Iraq. The waves were up, to make fishing difficult; the rain fell on all, but snow fell on elevations only a few hundred metres above sea level.

It started raining in Irbid on Wednesday afternoon, after 24 hours of chilling wind, by which time the temperature had dropped to 2 degrees. Irbid is in northern Jordan and 600 metres above sea level. You might expect it to be nearer 13C by day and 4C by night in this part of the Middle East on a normal January day.

Anywhere above about 500 metres has had snowfall now, including Jerusalem, the Bekaar Valley and the Golan Heights. Whilst the thousands of refugees, living in flimsy, uninsulated homes in camps in Lebanon are suffering, and there have been reported deaths, there will be a better legacy.

The sun will come out tomorrow warming everyone a little, 'though with a chill breeze. There are also ski areas in the Levant and whilst they are currently closed because of the weather, a beautiful depth of powder snow will be left in Mzaar, Lebanon and Mount Hermon, Israel.