Blistering Temperatures Scorch The Middle East

Much of the Middle East continues to suffer from the effects of the ongoing wave of unprecedented high temperatures. Today, temperatures in Iraq remained at near record levels for the month of July, hitting 127° F (53° C) by the afternoon in some areas. Weather forecasters are predicting no relief in sight in the near-term. The situation remains the same in Kuwait, Oman, and much of the Middle East.

Mitribah, Kuwait, on Thursday saw temperatures reach over 129.3° F (54° C). By early afternoon Friday, the temperature in Basra, Iraq, was reported to have reached a blistering 129° F (53.9° C). While these numbers have not yet been independently verified, if they are confirmed, they will represent the highest temperatures ever recorded in the Middle East. This is having a devastating effect on people living in the region, with a number of deaths being blamed on the excessive heat.

Elderly MIddle Eats man pours water on self to cool off.
Elderly man in Bagdad tries to cool off (Photo by Akram Saleh/Getty Images)

While the highest temperature ever documented anywhere in the world was supposedly in the Mojave Desert in the United States, this temperature was recorded in 1913, and is not considered to be particularly reliable by climate experts. According to the Washington Post, it may be that these incredibly high temperatures now being experienced in the Middle East are the highest ever seen on Earth.

Power outages and cutbacks in many areas have made the situation even worse. In fact, in the face of the oppressive heat, Iraqi officials on Wednesday and Thursday decided to close all government offices and buildings. Since Fridays and Saturdays are not a workday in Iraq, these offices remain closed today, as well. For the most part, daily life in Baghdad and other major cities in Iraq has ground to a halt. Any work or activity that is still being done by the people in the region is mostly being carried out in the slightly cooler morning temperatures.

Despite the fact that desert climates are well known for cooling rapidly at night, during this heat wave residents have not enjoyed much relief after the sun goes down. Many people say they are getting only a few hours’ sleep each night due to the sweltering heat. Some in Baghdad who do have access to water — but not electricity for air conditioning — are soaking their clothes with water so that the heat can evaporate away in the dry air.

People in Middle East get ice because of heat wave.
People in Bagdad buy ice to cool down (Photo by Wathiq Khuzaie/Getty Images)
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But as the Gulf News points out, in many parts of the Middle East, the humidity is so high that evaporative cooling doesn’t work. Temperatures along the Persian Gulf were lower than in the interior — they still topped out at a still toasty 100° F (38° C) – but were made worse by the much higher humidity levels. For instance, the moisture in the air in the United Arab Emirates resulted in a heat index of well over 140° F (60° C).

Given the unstable situation in Iraq, it is proving very difficult for the government there to deal with the impact that these temperatures are having on the population. In Fallujah and other war-torn areas of the country, many refugees are living without access to water or power, let alone air conditioning. UN spokesperson Caroline Gluck reported to the BBC that many of these refugees are developing illnesses because of the never-ending high temperatures and the lack of proper hygiene and clean water.

According to USA Today, this last June was the hottest June ever recorded globally or in the Middle East. This has disturbing implications for the future. Many scientists are predicting that by the end of the century global climate change and rising temperatures in the Middle East — and many other regions of the globe — will make human life in those areas impossible.

[Photo by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad/Getty Images]