Last week two airports in Israel had to shut down because the sky was so hazy and visibility was so limited, Haaretz reports. Both the Sde Dor Airport in Tel Aviv and Eilat’s airport shut down on 7th of February as a result of air pollution concentrations more than twelve times higher than usual. These conditions are expected to continue through Wednesday.
Israel’s Environmental Ministry explained that a low pressure weather system over Southern Greece moved into Israel and trapped particulates that traveled from a dust storm in North Africa. This is not the first time that Israeli researchers have discovered pollution stemming from outside the borders – sometimes laced with heavy metals.
We often note that nature has no borders and this is a classic example. Pollution from Eastern and Western Europe hover in Israeli skies 2/3 of the year, according to a Haaretz news report from last year. And for 1/5 of the year, harmful pollutants travel from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and North Africa.
Egypt’s air pollution is particularly bad as a result of poor environmental regulations and archaic agricultural, manufacturing, and waste management protocols. Every year, residents of Cairo brace themselves for “The Black Cloud.”
This cloud of dark pollution over the cityoccurs when a low pressure system similar to the one Israel is currently experiencing coincides with farmers burning off the by products of their annual rice harvest.
According to Haaretz, researchers from the Hebrew Univeristy and the Weizmann Institute have found toxic metals and pesticides that often travel on the backs of dust particles from countries in North Africa and elsewhere. As a result of this, they have called for regional players to establish environmental rules that protect everyone from air pollution.
In the meantime, Israel continues to pursue policies that excacerbate their own air pollution challenges. Although natural gas gives off less emissions than oil, it is by no means a “clean energy source.”
According to the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (Working Group III Report, chapter 4), in 2004, natural gas produced about 5.3 billion tons a year of CO2 emissions. It also consists of methane, which is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, though it has a far shorter atmosphereic lifespan.
Massive gas fields discovered in the Mediterranean are expected to finally admit Israel to the Middle East fossil fuel game – albeit a little late and in the face of climate change. But this also means that the country’s air pollution – so quickly attributed to sources outside of the country – is unlikely to improve any time soon.
Meanwhile, children, elderly people, pregnant women, and people who suffer from asthma or other respatory diseases are discouraged from engaging in any strenuous activity while conditions remain hazy.
image via Austin Evan, Flickr
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