Israel experienced its driest January since records have been kept, with Jerusalem seeing almost no rainfall at all for the entire month.
According to the Israeli Hydrological Service’s Amir Givati, such a parched January is beyond living memory.
“It is definitely a very rare January,” he said, according to Army Radio. “In Jerusalem there hasn’t been a situation like this since 1860 and in the north it has been over a hundred years.”
In the capital, only 1 millimeter of rain fell during the entire month compared to a January average of 200 millimeters.
The Sea of Galilee rose just 11 centimeters during January, Walla said, compared to about a meter in the same month last year.
Across the country, only about 20 percent of the annual average for the month fell and since the beginning of the winter only 64% of the average rain has come.
Maariv reported that the level of the Dead Sea, replenished by rainfall flowing down the Jordan River and from run-off from the Jerusalem mountains, dropped by 8 centimeters over the course of the month, and 3 centimeters during December. During the same period a year ago, it rose 3 centimeters.
While experts are still hopeful that the remaining winter season will bring rain, Israel’s large desalination plants on the Mediterranean coast are keeping the country out of a drought, Army Radio reported.
The winter season has seen wild weather swings from hot and dry to cold and wet, sometimes within the space of just a few days.
An unusually dry November last year was followed by an unseasonably hot start to December with some areas seeing temperatures as high as 30°C (86°F), raising fears of a serious shortage in annual rainfall.
However, a few days into the month a heavy storm began, with torrential rain and high winds, followed a week later by the most snow the country had seen since 1992. The elements wrought widespread flooding and damage with closed roads and downed power lines, and left some communities, including the capital Jerusalem, cut off from electricity for extended periods.
The damage shocked authorities and prompted several Knesset committees to hold special meetings last month to examine the country’s preparedness for severe winter weather at various local and national levels.