Dry November, Wet December

Hit harder than most by climate change, Israel is ahead of the curve in preparing for the future

By Aviel Schneider |
Photo: Flash90

November 2019 was one of the six driest Novembers in the last 80 years; in some places there was no rainfall at all, and elsewhere there was up to 20 percent less rainfall than is usual for the month. Instead, the weather was glorious. It was warm, and the Mediterranean beaches were filled with people. However, what is absolutely great for day-trippers and tourists was simultaneously bad for the country. The water level of the Sea of Galilee fell over the summer months by 28 inches (70 cm) and now stands at 695 feet (211.8 meters) below sea level, which is ten feet (three meters) below its highest level. During this season the rabbis are once again calling for urgent prayers for rain. 

An acquaintance of ours, who is religious, believes that the November drought may be related spiritually to the political chaos in the country. The people are divided. It has proved impossible to arrive at a government coalition. Prime Minister Netanyahu has been indicted, and a third election is scheduled for March. Since biblical times weather phenomena have had spiritual significance. Thunder and lightning, storms and strong winds, clouds, rain, hail and of course the rainbow – all of these were and are symbolic for the people in the Land, as if God wanted to thereby say something. 

If global warming doesn’t slow, the rainfall will be reduced by a further 15 to 20 percent, according to Israel’s meteorological service. The temperatures in the Land will rise. These climatic changes are no longer just theories, say Israeli experts, but rather already a fact of our times. By 2050, in a pessimistic scenario, the annual temperatures will rise by about 1.2 degrees Celsius on average. Climatologists are certain that the rise in temperatures won’t exceed 2 degrees Celsius, and it is most likely that it’ll remain below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Otherwise, we can expect far-reaching consequences. If we overstep certain tipping points, it will result in dangerous chain reactions, they warn. The average temperatures have already risen by 1.4 degrees Celsius since 1950, and particularly so over the last 30 years. “The latest report indicates that the rise in temperatures in Israel has gone up by 1.4 degrees Celsius, and in comparison with the rhythm of climate change in general has risen by twice as much,” Israeli hydrologist Dr. Amir Givati explained. 

Basically, over the last 30 years, the rainfall in Israel has lessened. This trend will end up being far more dangerous between 2070 and 2100. On average, 24 inches (600 mm) of rain falls in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa annually, over 31 inches (over 800 mm) on the Golan Heights and 0.9 inches (22 mm) in Eilat. In 50 years, there will be up to 25 percent less rainfall, so they say. Israel’s rainy season falls between October and April, and 75 percent of the rain falls from December to February. On average, it rains between 60 and 70 days in the north, and 40 days in the center of the country, just a quarter of the number of rainy days in Europe. Israel’s Ministry of Environmental Protection predicts that the weather will become more and more extreme. More frequent and more intense heatwaves, heavier rains and flooding, at different times and in different places in the country than usual.

“Israel has been preparing itself for the change in climate in recent years and is producing water from ocean desalination plants. Without these measures we would today be suffering from a catastrophic water crisis. Countries that have not made these preparations will find themselves in an emergency situation,” Givati emphasized. “In addition, Israel has to adapt its agriculture to the climate changes.” The desalination of water from the ocean has made the Jewish nation increasingly independent from natural resources over the last ten years. Even though 60 percent of the land area is desert, over the last 50 years Israel has been able to reduce its desert areas by means of cultivation and water management; whereas in every other part of the world they have increased. Israel is preparing for climate change and is thereby also a blessing for the entire Middle East region.       

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