Friday, July 31

Middle East heat wave: "staggering" temperature and heat index readings (UPDATED Aug 2 1:20 PM EDT)

See New York Times report Aug 1Iraq’s hot weather and spotty electricity lead to protests

By Nick Wiltgen
Published Jul 31 2015 12:14 PM EDT

Even in the Middle East, where scorching heat is part of everyday life during the summer, coping with extreme temperatures has its limits. A heat wave that has been building for days is testing those limits – and will test the region's national temperature records too.

The searing heat has led to an impromptu, mandatory four-day holiday in Iraq beginning this past Thursday.

The government has urged residents to stay out of the sun and drink plenty of water, but for many of the more than 3 million Iraqis displaced by violent conflict, that poses a dilemma.

Chronic electricity and water cuts in Iraq and other conflict-ridden countries make heat waves like the present one even more unbearable – particularly for the more than 14 million people displaced by violence across the region. In the southern Iraqi city of Basrah earlier this month, protesters clashed with police as they demonstrated for better power services, leaving one person dead.

Unlike other countries in the region, Iraq lacks beaches and travel restrictions make it difficult for people to escape the sweltering heat, leaving many - even those fortunate enough to live in their homes - with limited options for cooling off. Some swim in rivers and irrigation canals, while others spend these days in air-conditioned shopping malls.

To the south, in the similarly sweltering Persian Gulf region, residents cranked up their air conditioners, and elsewhere in the Middle East, those who could headed to the beach to escape Thursday's soaring temperatures, high even by the standards of the region.

Water temperatures in the Persian Gulf routinely warm into the 90s each summer, releasing massive amounts of water vapor into the air above. For those unlucky enough to catch a breeze from the Gulf, the humidity can be stifling.

On Thursday, those breezes blew toward the Iranian side of the Gulf. At 3:30 p.m. local time (1100 GMT) Thursday, the manned observation site at the Mahshahr Airport in southwest Iran reported a temperature of 109 degrees (43 degrees Celsius) and a dewpoint of 90 degrees (32 degrees Celsius). Using the American heat index formula, those figures yielded a mind-boggling feels-like temperature of 159 degrees (70 degrees Celsius).

It was even hotter on Friday at the Mahshahr Airport when temperatures reached 114.8 degrees at 4:30 pm local time with a dew point of 89.6 degrees, leading to a heat index value of an incredible 163 degrees (72.7 degrees Celsius).

It is not uncommon for well-off Gulf citizens to decamp with their luxury cars and servants to cooler spots such as Britain or Switzerland as temperatures rise. Saudi Arabia's King Salman, joined by a delegation numbering in the hundreds, is currently cooling off in the south of France, where high temperatures Thursday were in a comparatively mild range between 73 and 93 degrees (23 and 33 degrees Celsius).

Several Gulf states, including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, mandate midday breaks when temperatures are at their highest for low-paid migrant laborers during the summer months. But that only provides some relief as many still spend long hours working in the heat and travel to job sites on buses without air conditioning.

[lots more about other affected areas; forecast map]

Iranian city Bandar Mahshahr hits 'incredible' temperature of 43C during Middle East heatwave
Siobhan Fenton
July 31, 2015
The Independent

An Iranian city has reached a heat index of 68C, as a heat wave continues to engulf the Middle East.

A temperature of 43C (109 F) and a dew point of 32C (90 F) have been observed in Bandar Mahshahr.

When humidity is factored in, this means that residents are experiencing an environment of 68C (154 F).

[See website for temp. chart]

The staggering readings were spotted by meteorologist Anthony Sagliani, who called them: “probably the most incredible [observations] I’ve ever seen.”

Bandar Mahshahr is the capital of Iran’s Mahshahr County in the Khuzestan Province. It is home to just over two hundred thousand inhabitants.

Temperatures have been soaring in the Middle East in recent weeks. In Iraq, a mandatory four-day holiday was announced and began yesterday.


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