A succession of European countries such as Spain and Portugal registered record highs this year.
The Northern Hemisphere witnessed truly record temperatures, with wildfires and drought threatening food supplies in parts of Europe. And, often, European cities witnessed hotter conditions than Persian Gulf cities.
But experts say temperature alone is not an adequate measure of a city’s livability — the combination of heat and humidity. And that’s why the Middle East is much less habitable than Europe at the same temperature.
The Middle East is still pretty hot. The Iranian city of Abadan set the record for the hottest dry heat temperature this year when it reached 53 degrees Celsius (127 degrees Fahrenheit) on August 5. But combine this with the region’s high levels of humidity and it becomes even more inhospitable. A place for people. Cooling down is more difficult when the weather is humid, as our bodies struggle to transfer their heat to “wet” air instead of dry air, causing sweating and lowering our body temperature.
The measurement of heat combined with moisture is called wet bulb temperature. The name comes from the way this condition is measured, literally by wrapping a wet cloth around a thermometer and measuring the temperature as the water evaporates.
This speaks directly to our body’s ability to cool itself through sweat.
“The wet bulb temperature is the lowest temperature that can be reached by evaporative cooling,” Tapio Snyder, professor of environmental science and engineering at the California Institute of Technology, told CNN.
The Middle East is particularly vulnerable to global warming. “The region may already be warm and humid,” he said. “Therefore, global warming may push it into areas where human health is endangered.”
On 19 July, the UK experienced its hottest day on record, exceeding 40C for the first time, with a high of 40.3C in eastern England. On the same day, London and Dubai both averaged 34C — but London’s wet bulb temperature was 20C, while Dubai’s was a more painful 27C.
The Persian Gulf is one of the few places on Earth where a wet-bulb temperature has been recorded that exceeds the human survival threshold, 35C. Since 2005, it has had nine separate occasions on record.
A wet bulb temperature of 35C means the body can no longer cool itself to a temperature that can maintain normal function.
“It’s a hard threshold for survival independent of age and fitness, people can’t survive in these conditions; they’ll die within hours without special effort,” Snyder said.
Wet bulb temperatures below 35C are also not ideal. “Humans experience heat stress even at low wet-bulb temperatures,” he said. “And the degree to which they can survive such heat stress depends on fitness, age and pre-existing conditions.”
The oil-rich Arab states of the Persian Gulf have equipped themselves against the heat with energy-intensive air conditioning, but other regional countries have not benefited as much.
In Iraq, workers in the city of Basra were told to stay indoors earlier this month due to high temperatures. However, households only get electricity from the national grid for up to 10 hours, with those who can afford it paying private generator suppliers to cover the other hours.
In Gaza, residents cool off with three to four hours of electricity per day, suffering up to 20 hours without power per day. Likewise, the Lebanese government no longer supplies electricity for more than two hours per day.
Even in some Gulf Arab states, such as Kuwait, where there is a building boom, access to air conditioning is not available to all, including construction workers toiling outside.
Purdue University research has shown that at a wet-bulb temperature of around 32C, it becomes impossible for even healthy people to work outside, with the limit of physical exertion at 31C.
An MIT simulation found that if the current pace of greenhouse emissions in the Persian Gulf remained constant, the annual maximum wet bulb temperature in cities such as Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Doha would exceed the threshold for human survival several times a year (35C). End of the century.
Saudi activist gets 34 years in prison for Twitter activity
Saudi women’s rights campaigner Salma al-Shehab, 33, was sentenced Monday to 34 years in prison for spreading “false and sensationalized rumors on Twitter,” according to court documents seen by the independent human rights organization ALQST and CNN.
- Background: Al-Shehab, a PhD student at the University of Leeds in the UK, was arrested in January 2021 and was interrogated for 265 days before being brought before a specialized criminal court, ALQST said in a statement. According to court documents, the mother of two was initially given a six-year sentence late last year that was increased to 34 years after al-Shehab filed an appeal. The charges filed against him by the public prosecution include “providing support to those who want to disrupt public order and destroy the security of the general public and the stability of the state, and spreading false and sensational rumors on Twitter,” ALQST added.
- Why is this important?: Al-Shehab’s prison term, according to ALQST, is the longest prison term for a peaceful activist in the state’s history. The organization’s head of monitoring and communications, Lina al-Hathloul, told CNN that al-Shehab was arrested for supporting her sister Luzaine al-Hathloul, a prominent activist who has spent more than 1,000 days in jail. Lina al-Hathloul said in the ALQST statement that al-Shehab’s sentence “makes a mockery of the Saudi authorities’ claims to reform the legal system for women” and added that it “shows that they remain hell-bent on punishing anyone who freely expresses their opinion.”
The Israeli army raids Palestinian civil society organizations in the West Bank
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) raided seven offices of five Palestinian civil society organizations in the West Bank on Thursday morning, Israel’s Defense Ministry said.
- Background: The five groups were designated as terrorist organizations by the Israeli government last year, which accused them of “covertly working on the international front” on behalf of the ‘Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)’ to support their activities. furthers its goals.” The Palestine Liberation Organization condemned the move, saying it would appeal to human rights organizations to “immediately intervene and condemn the closure of non-governmental organizations and press for their reopening.”
- Why is this important?: The move has drawn dismay and protests from international organizations. B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights watchdog, condemned the raid and described Israel’s cause as false. “We will continue to work with our colleagues in Palestinian NGOs to dismantle the apartheid regime,” the organization said in a statement. Although not directly linked, the news also comes after the worst violence between the Israeli military and Palestinian militants since a brief war last May. In early August, more than 40 Palestinian militants and civilians, including 15 children, were killed in two-and-a-half days of fighting after Israel launched strikes targeting Islamic Jihad militant groups in Gaza. Palestinian militants fired more than 1,000 rockets at Israel.
Turkey’s Erdogan meets with Ukraine’s Zelensky and UN chief
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in the Ukrainian city of Lviv on Thursday, expressed concern over the ongoing conflict around the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, warning of “a new” threat. Chernobyl.”
- Background: Ministers of Ukraine and Russia signed an agreement to lift the blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in Istanbul on July 22, amid concerns over a global food crisis. Urging Russia and Ukraine to find “the shortest and fairest way to the negotiating table,” the Turkish leader said: “I maintain my belief that the war will eventually end at the negotiating table. In fact, [Zelensky] And Guterres echoes this opinion.” Zelensky responded that he was surprised by Erdogan’s advice and that he “has no faith in the Russian Federation.” , so they must first liberate our territory,” the Ukrainian president added.
- Why is this important?: Turkey has been hosting talks between representatives of Russia and Ukraine for months now, and Erdogan has been waiting for a mediating role in the conflict. That role was apparently enhanced after Ankara helped broker a deal to allow grain exports from blockaded Ukrainian ports. In the process, Erdogan continues to perform a strategic balancing act between Russia on the one hand and Ukraine and the West on the other. “We are ready to act as a facilitator or a mediator with the aim of reviving the talks on the parameters that were taken in Istanbul,” the Turkish president said at Thursday’s meeting in Lviv.
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Climate change and poor water management are causing alarming droughts around the world, drying up lakes that once flowed with abundant freshwater. Israel is hopeful, however, that by purifying seawater from the Mediterranean, it can pump fresh water into lakes across the country.
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around the region
The Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art was forced to temporarily close due to an insect infestation, the museum said in a statement and apology on Wednesday.
The news broke after a video posted on the BBC Persian website went viral. This is two silverfish crawling under the glass in a famous photo taken by influential German photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher.
“Tehran Museum of Contemporary Arts’ treasured works, national assets and their proper maintenance are the most important concerns of all of us and the attention and sensitivity of the Iranian art family is a valuable asset,” the statement said.
Once the museum became aware of the situation, pest control technicians hastened to deal with the problem, it said. “Fortunately, this work was not damaged, and no insects were seen in the other works in the exhibition,” it continued.
The statement said that experts are fumigating the outer spaces of the building, as it is possible that the insects entered from outside.
The Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art is one of the largest art museums in the country, with a large collection of both Iranian and Western paintings. After the Iranian Revolution of 1979, many famous Western works of art were stored and hidden away in museum vaults for decades. Now, the museum often exhibits works of art from around the world, including the United States and Europe.
Written by Zeena Saifi
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