Snow over Alexandria… What happened?

It may seem strange to some, how can warming lead to snowfall?

In an unusual climatic phenomenon, the city of Alexandria and other areas in northern Egypt witnessed very cold weather fluctuations, accompanied by snowfall. How did these fluctuations happen? What is its relationship to the climate changes that the world is currently witnessing? Is it evidence that the weather in the Arab region will become less humid in the future?

After a hot summer in most of the Arab countries, which was punctuated by unprecedented heat waves and widespread fires in many regions in northern Algeria and Tunisia, northern Egypt witnessed the past days cold weather fluctuations that led to snowfall.

The cold current took a direction from north to south after hitting the atmospheric pressure area (social networking sites)

What exceptional circumstances led to this?

In an answer to this question, Zuhair Al-Halawi, professor of climatology at the University of Tunis, said in a special statement to Al-Jazeera Net over the phone that what happened was the result of a high concentration of atmospheric pressure (declining air) that extended from southern Tunisia to the United Kingdom on December 16 and 17, and formed dorsal compressive;

At the same time, a depression of atmospheric pressure formed in the eastern Mediterranean, especially over northern Egypt and the island of Cyprus. Usually, the cold and dry air from Siberia and Eastern Europe infiltrates the region with a Mediterranean climate and moves in a southwesterly direction towards North Africa.

And what happened recently is that this cold current took a direction from north to south after colliding with the compressive latitude of the atmospheric pressure region. Since the waters of the Mediterranean are still relatively warm, it has provided this current with significant amounts of evaporated water.

The rapid leakage of the current led to a rapid condensation of steam upon reaching the coasts of Alexandria and Sinai, which led to snow, hail and weather fluctuations accompanied by strong winds.

According to Al-Halawi, this climatic condition is not the first of its kind, as Egypt witnessed similar conditions on December 13, 2013, and fluctuations were concentrated over Cairo.

Interactive map of ventusky-temperatureThe depression that has centered north of Egypt since December 16 this year (Ventusky app)

Is this phenomenon related to climate change?

It may seem strange to some, how can warming lead to snowfall?

This is not surprising, “the increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather phenomena is considered one of the most important effects of global warming, and this is the case for what happened recently,” according to the Tunisian expert, who adds, “When looking at the recent fluctuations in the context of a series of unusual phenomena that the region witnessed previously, we conclude that they occurred as a result of global warming.

The countries of the region witnessed a number of these phenomena, such as the floods that struck Sudan last year, the severe cold wave that swept Syria, Jordan, Libya and Algeria at the beginning of this year, and the heat wave that struck Tunisia and Algeria last summer.

For example, heat waves that occurred until the end of the 19th century only once every 50 years, are now almost 5 times more frequent in the Mediterranean region, according to Sixth United Nations Climate Report issued last August. The report indicated that the increase in frequency and intensity also includes other extreme phenomena such as floods, cyclones, heat waves, droughts and cold.

Will the region’s climate become more humid?

In response to the possibility that this phenomenon is an indicator of a long-term climatic shift in the region from dry and hot to humid and more temperate that leads to the greening of arid desert areas, Al-Halawi says that he does not share this opinion. The general trend is that the world is moving towards more warming and a rise in the frequency of phenomena extreme. Scientific studies and various scenarios for climate development also confirm that the average temperature will increase in the Arab region in the future.

To be sure, the recent severe cold snap will not be the last, and it is likely that it will become more frequent and perhaps more severe in the future like other extreme weather events.

Although the Arab countries in general are not among the countries that pollute the environment most through emissions of greenhouse gases, they have no choice but to work, like the rest of the world, to reduce the emissions of these gases and develop strategies to adapt to the phenomenon and mitigate its social, economic and health effects.

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