Israel’s summer temperatures could increase 5 degrees by end of century — study

Comparing records from past 30 years, Israel Meteorological Institute suggests that as early as 2050, summers could be almost two degrees warmer

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter

Illustrative: People lie on a beach as others cool off in the water in Netanya on May 18, 2020. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)
Illustrative: People lie on a beach as others cool off in the water in Netanya on May 18, 2020. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Summer temperatures in Israel could warm by five degrees by the end of the century, compared to the average over the past 30 years, the Israel Meteorological Service has predicted in a new analysis, meaning that 36 degree days in July and August could become the norm.

Average annual temperatures could rise by four degrees, the study found.

The IMS took as a baseline average temperatures from 24 weather stations for the period 1988-2017 and then modeled how these might change in 2021-2050, 2051-2080 and 2071-2100, under two scenarios: The extreme scenario is under conditions of “business as usual,” when little is done to reduce global warming gases; the more moderate one is based on global warming peaking between 2030-2040 and then starting to come down after the world has invested serious efforts to slash carbon dioxide emissions.

While temperatures are expected to rise gradually under both scenarios between now and 2040, the real differences kick in after 2040. By 2100, the action taken now will determine whether summer temperatures rise above the baseline by just under 2% or by close to 5%.

Over the next 30 years, they can be expected to rise by just under one degree under the optimistic scenario or just under two degrees under the pessimistic one.

From ‘Trends in Temperature Change in Israel, forecasts to 2100,’ Research Report No. 4000-0802-2020-0000044, August 2020. (Yitzhak Yosef, Anat Baharad, Linas Ozen, Avner Forshpan, Yoav Levy)

Climate scientists all over the world are predicting hotter weather, less rain, and an increase in extreme events such as storms, floods, and heatwaves over the coming decades.

Last year, James Salinger, a lead author on a Nobel Peace Prize-winning UN report on climate change, warned that the Middle East and North Africa are likely to suffer most from global warming.

He told The Times of Israel that Israelis should brace themselves for summer heatwave temperatures of 46 degrees Celsius (115°F) at the extreme by 2050, and up to 50°C (122°F) by 2100, unless governments worldwide meet the challenge of cutting greenhouse gases to slow global warming.

In Israel, the widespread use of air conditioners and the country’s ability to desalinate vast quantities of water will help to mitigate the day-to-day effects of searing heat and declining sources of natural water.

Salinger explained that the Middle East and North Africa are climate change hotspots because they are so dry.

International climate scientist Jim Salinger, in Jerusalem, November 10, 2019. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)

“Heat is energy and when it hits ice or water, its energy is first deployed to change the state of that water — to melt ice into water, or to convert water into steam,” he explained. “When you melt ice, the water doesn’t heat until it has completely melted. In places where the earth is dry, the heat immediately warms the air.

“On the coast in Israel, you’ll still get sea breezes and humidity. But you’re going to get 50-degree days inland, whether you live in Jerusalem or Petah Tikva.”

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