With the heat index in countries including Morocco and Iran climbing to record-shattering highs, climate scientists warn that the worst is yet to come.
While the region have dealt with increasingly warm summers recently, this year may be the hottest yet. Parts of the United Arab Emirates and Iran saw a heat index of 150 degrees in July. Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, recorded an all-time high of nearly 126 degrees. Southern Morocco – which normally has a relatively cooler climate had highs between 109 and 116.
Temperatures in Kuwait and Iraq reached 129.2 on July 21 – which could be the hottest ever recorded in the Eastern Hemisphere, if confirmed by the World Meteorological Organization.
This extreme weather has dealt severe damage to the Iraqi economy. One economist estimates that the gross domestic product – about $230 billion annually – has contracted somewhere between 10 and 20% due to the heat. Farmers are also reporting wilting crops, while general workforce productivity has decreased and hospitals have seen a rise in patients suffering from heat exhaustion and dehydration.
Climate scientists have predicted this steady rise in temperatures and see worse on the horizon. A study published in October said that heat waves in parts of the Persian Gulf could threaten human survival by the end of the century.
And according to the United Nations, by 2050, the growing population (from 400 million to 600 million) would place serious stress on countries in the region already facing water crises because of dry climates, surging consumption, and wasteful agricultural practices.