Israel is smoking hot when it comes to tech start-ups, fashion, and vegetarian cuisine, but yesterday it showed signs of getting too hot for its own good. Air temperatures topped 46 degrees Celsius (nearly 115 degrees Fahrenheit) in Eilat, a record high for the Red Sea resort town according to the Israel Meteorological Service. The sharav – or heat wave – has caused hundreds of cases of dehydration and heatstroke, triggered brush fires, and placed extreme pressure on the national electrical grid. Nearby Jordan is experiencing similar weather.
Springtime in this region brings a 50-day period of dust and heat, called hamsin in Arabic and sharav in Hebrew, where temperatures can rise up to 10 degrees Celsius in under an hour. Temperatures reached 37.1 degrees in Jerusalem, 40.6 degrees in Beit Dagan, and 43.4 degrees in Be’er Sheva.
The extreme weather events are not unusual, but now in its eighth day, this one is notably long-lasting. So far, 442 people were treated for heat-related illness since Saturday morning. About 196 people have been treated or fainting in the extremely high temperatures.
Hot, dry air caused fires in and around Yerushalayim. One large burn swept through area forests, fought back by ground services and firefighting aircraft while rescue services evacuated vulnerable residents from their homes. In Haifa, six firetrucks battled a blaze in a small olive grove. Although the fire filled surrounding streets with smoke, no injuries were reported. Another fire broke out at the Arik Bridge over the Jordan River, not far from Tiberias. A forest fire erupted near the Negev town of Netivot, and a Christian YMCA guest house was destroyed in the Kinneret.
Sections of Routes 44, 85, 375, 435, and 444 were closed because of the fires.
Meteorologist Lior Suderi told Ynetnews that this heat wave is expected to break the nation’s 1988 record of extreme May heat, and temperatures today in eastern Israel could reach 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit). Yesterday’s record high was recorded in kibbutz Yotvata in southern Israel at 47 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit). A sharav of this duration occurs only once every 10 years.
High May temperatures in May are a deviation from the region’s typical weather. Meteorologist Dr. Baruch Ziv told Ynetnews, “It’s extremely hot. We don’t reach such temperatures and for so long every year. The temperatures in Israel’s hot season rose by two degrees over 40 years. Our climate is already changing, and it’s going to change further. Coping with it is done by air conditioning, and as a result, there’s a rise in electricity demand, and the implication is that the Earth gets warmer.” Ziv forecasts that the country could expect extremely high temperatures in the months ahead.
The Israel Electric Corporation is preparing for the higher demand for electricity that comes with spiked temperatures, with actions that include advance maintenance works and a decision to delay power cuts for delinquent customers until the heat wave breaks. CEO, Ofer Bloch, told KosherPress, “The Israel Electric Corporation prepared in recent months to meet the supply of electricity during peak demands in the months of summer 2016. We are available to the public via our Facebook page, our website and our 103 telephone line.”
Meteorologists predict that Tuesday will bring cooler air, but temperatures will remain higher than what is considered seasonal. By Wednesday, temperatures will drop further. That is, until they rise again.