x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Sandstorms and cold temperatures are drastic turns in weather transition

Traditional and modern weather experts say sandstorms and colder weather are normal for this time of year, which is a transition between winter chills and summer heat.

It is that time of year again, one that both modern and traditional weather forecasters dub the "transitional season", when bouts of colder and hotter temperatures take their last drastic turns before settling on the final outcome: extreme heat.

The transitional weather pattern between winter and summer is nothing out of the ordinary, experts said.

"We can't make a general statement that this winter was coldest or shorter compared to last year's, as it fluctuates day to day and almost hour to hour," said a climate specialist at the National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology in Abu Dhabi.

"This past week, it was the final battle of the more dominant colder cycles over hot cycles," he said. "From next week until April, it will be the hot cycles more dominant over the cold cycle, so that people will feel it is overall hotter but with breaks of cooler weather from time to time."

Temperatures today in the coastal areas ranged between highs of 23°C and 30°C, and lows ranged between 14°C and 20°C.

For the weekend, the weather was expected to be generally hazy and partly cloudy with a rise in day temperatures. Southeast and northeast winds will continue to blow dust and sand over the country, with a sea warning for Saturday forecasting "rough with wave height 4 to 6/7 ft offshore," according to the forecast.

"With May, the long hot summer will arrive," the forecast said.

This past week, the UAE and other parts of the Gulf were hit with a huge sandstorm that brought with it dust, cold and inconveniences such as low visibility, forcing motorists to travel more slowly.

This year's conditions held no surprises for traditional weathermen.

"It is always like this, but people forget," said Khamees Al Rumaithy, who is in his late 80s and is one of the last UAE traditional weathermen.

"From now until early April, there will be unsettled weather as it is a period known as 'Jawlat al Riyah' (touring or wandering winds)," said Mr Al Rumaithy, a former sailor and pearl diver who warns against going to the sea at this time.

The biggest storm that will come before the summer, "that last kick storm", will be around the time of the first days of the Taurus zodiac horoscope (20th of April) before the settlement of hot weather, he said.

"This storm happens just before the disappearance of the 'Thuraya'," said Mr Al Rumaithy.

Thuraya is the Pleiades star cluster, also known as the Seven Sisters. The star cluster is among the nearest to earth, and is quite visible to the naked eye, making it one of the most important clusters in both local and ancient cultures and traditions.

But the sandy storms are not the biggest weather concern, experts said, it is the persistent lack of rains.

"These winds and storms are actually very good for us farmers, and very important for the pollination of our plants, like the palm trees," said Abdullah Al Amimi, a 40-year-old farmer in Liwa.

"We have been seeing less and less rain over the past five years. That is the biggest issue for us," he said.

One of the reasons for this drier climate is global warming, Mr Al Amimi believes.

"People don't take it seriously, and ignore the impact of pollution," he said. "But the effects are real, and one of the reasons I use green houses to grow my crop in order to be able to control the environment."

But even in a green house, where Mr Al Amimi grows bell peppers and tomatoes, cloudy days are a strain, with "no benefits of sunlight for plants or even us," he said.

"Cloudy, dusty days that go on for more than two days are never good for any farmer," he said.

Agreeing with Mr Al Amimi, Ali Bukarrood, a farmer in Al Aweer of Dubai, says there is also the problem of "extreme heat", which threatens both plants and livestock.

"Before three years ago, it never used to reach 50°C in our farms," he said.

With open-field farming becoming harder each year, he also has a green house to grow his crop.

"But even with a green house, extreme heat affects our production, " said Mr Bukarrood, 46.

As for the health effects of stormy weather, officials say that the number of patients who complain of respiratory problems "triples" during the dusty weather. However, they said, this too was not unusual.

"We have had the same number of admitted patients around this month like we had last year in March, about 200," said Dr Maurice Kallas, head of the emergency department at Al Noor Hospital in Abu Dhabi.

"This year wasn't any worse than last year," said Dr Kallas. "We always advise anyone with respiratory problems or even sensitive eyes to be careful around this time of year, and to avoid exposure as much as possible, and to wear a mask if forced to go out."

rghazal@thenational.ae

 

It's not so unusual

Although the weather may feel colder than in previous years, this year’s temperatures were about the same as last year’s, a climate expert at the National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology in Abu Dhabi said.

In January 2011, the maximum lowest temperature was 17.4°C, and the maximum highest temperature was 31.8°C, he said. This year, the lowest maximum was 13.4°C, and the highest was 33.7°C.

In February 2011, the lowest maximum was 16.7°C, and the highest was 37.6°C compared with this February’s 16.0°C and 35.4°C, respectively.