Many parts of the Arabian Peninsula and wider Middle East have been hit by severe thunderstorms, which have caused significant disruption across the region.

Late March is usually when summer begins to show its hand, and weather conditions tend to settle into the persistent heat and sunshine of June, July and August.

This winter and spring has been quite different, with prolonged periods of unsettled and relatively cool weather.

Much of the region is classified as sub-tropical desert. It sits under an area of high pressure, which is only briefly disturbed from its usual location during the winter period.

For reasons that are unclear, low pressure systems, largely originating over the Mediterranean Sea, have made eastward progress and experienced little of the usual weakening, en route.

Such winter weather may be uncommon, but is not unknown. The Asian Games of 2006 was held in Doha, Qatar. While sunny weather may have been expected, it turned out to be wet for much of the month-long duration of the Games.

Local meteorologists refer to the period between approximately March 20 to mid-May as Al Sarayat and it is during this time that the full transition to the searing summer heat takes place.

Doha has also seen its fair share of rain in this latest bout of changeable weather. The MotoGP, taking place at the Losail International Circuit, north of the city, has already seen practice sessions interrupted, and qualifying cancelled.

Although the circuit dried out relatively quickly during Saturday’s downpours, race officials reported that a lack of drainage was responsible for some sections of the track remaining wet long after the rain had cleared.

Across the region, drainage, or lack of it, is a problem. Underpasses are often flooded by any intense downpours, even a short-lived one. Road conditions are made even more hazardous by the build-up of dust and rubber on tarmac. When this becomes wet after long periods of dry weather it can become exceptionally slippery.

The situation is often exacerbated by a lack of driver awareness and skill in dealing with such conditions.

The thunderstorms have largely affected central Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Another cluster of storms hit Kuwait, Iran and Iraq.

With the most recent showers now fading away, it is expected that the weather will return to sunnier and significantly warmer conditions in the coming days.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies