Red hot in Arabia

Temperatures are high even by Middle Eastern standards. A look at why summer seems to have arrived so early.


    Heat haze along the Corniche in Doha [Richard Angwin]

    Hot weather across the Arabian Peninsula is hardly unusual. But even by Gulf standards things have been really heating up over the last few days.

    Doha has just recorded its warmest day of the year so far. On Saturday 5 May the temperature touched an impressive 44.1C. This is the fifth day in succession that temperatures have topped the 40C mark.

    Nighttime temperatures have also been exceptional: between 27 and 29C compared with an average of 21 to 23C.

    The hot weather has not been confined to Doha. Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have also experienced temperatures well above 40C.

    The region enjoys a subtropical arid climate with hot summers, temperature winters and very little rainfall.

    A rise in temperatures might initially have been welcomed by many people as the winter and spring months were perceived to have been unusually cold and windy.

    ‘Cold’ is a relative term, of course. The coldest day experienced in Doha in March was the 18th, when temperatures reached no higher than 18C. But the wind has also contributed to the chilly feel.

    Brisk winds are a feature of winter and spring in the region with the Shamal wind bringing poor visibility, in the form of lifted dust, and a chilly feel to the weather.

    The air is extremely dry out here. A temperature of 40C or more may be accompanied by a relative humidity as low as five percent. The cooling effect on the skin is considerable and people who live in more temperate climes are often amused when they hear friends or family who live in Doha complaining about the ‘cold’ weather.

    The current hot spell is due to an area of high pressure and winds blowing from a south to southwesterly direction. This brings air in from the Rub’ al-Khali, also known as the Empty Quarter. The air is warmed as it feeds in from the sandy desert.

    The wind direction is crucial. The waters of the Gulf are relatively cool in April with temperatures of just 20C although that increases rapidly during May and June. So any breeze from the sea can have a marked cooling effect. This has been absent in the current weather pattern.

    It is expected that the hot weather will continue, with the forecast for the next five days showing Doha temperatures reaching at least 40C each day.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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