Rare Lengthy Heat Wave in Israel Could Break Records

Temperatures in eastern valleys have topped a sweltering 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit)

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A child performs parkour during a heat wave on Hilton Beach, Tel Aviv, May 17, 2020.
A child performs parkour during a heat wave on Hilton Beach, Tel Aviv, May 17, 2020.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

The Meteorological Service says that Israel’s current heat wave could break records for duration, assuming it lasts for the six days that are forecast. In many places temperatures have risen above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), and in the eastern valleys temperatures of 45 degrees or more were recorded.

Those tempertures represent about 15 degrees or more above the monthly average, though the average temperature depends on where you are in Israel.

The service noted that six consecutive days of temperatures over 38 degrees along the coast would be unprecedented, as would six consecutives days of over 36 degrees in the mountain regions, or 42 degrees around the Sea of Galilee. Several consecutive days of sharav (intense, dry heat, also known as khamsin) conditions are rare in the spring (April through June); heat waves at this time of year usually last 24 to 36 hours.

The current sharav is being caused by a high-altitude ridge – that is, an area where the air pressure is higher than its surroundings – combined with hot, dry airflows at ground level from the east. High-altitude ridges tend to settle and move relatively slowly, causing prolonged heat. The service says this is probably because of climate change.

In June 2012, there were five consecutive days when it was higher than 35 degrees in the central mountain region. In April 1998 there were six consecutive days of temperatures higher than 34 degrees along the coast, while in April 1994 there were four consecutive days of temperatures of 38 degrees or more along the coast.

People at the beach in Tel Aviv, May 16, 2020.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Long heat waves are more common in the summer and fall. There were heat waves of several consecutive days in August 2015, July 2012, August 2010, October 1993 other times. But even those were not as long and intense as the heat wave being predicted for this week. This doesn’t mean that the record for high temperatures in May will necessarily be broken, but lengthy heat waves generally mean that records are broken in specific locations.

For such a small country Israel has quite a range of climate conditions.

Ruth Schuster contributed to this report.