Financial Mirror (Cyprus)

Dust episodes spell climate change

Rising temperatur­es create thicker dust clouds over Cyprus

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Recent dust clouds over Cyprus are a sign of climate change, as the phenomenon is becoming more frequent and persistent.

In April alone, Cypriots had to cope with 20 days when dust levels were above the safety levels, accompanie­d by high temperatur­es, increasing the feeling of discomfort.

In comments to the Financial Mirror, Michalis Mouskos of the Cyprus Meteorolog­y Service attributed the intensity and frequency of dust storms heading Cyprus’ way to climate change.

“Unfortunat­ely, as a small island nation there’s not much we can do about the situation but learn to live with the new weather order,” said Mouskos.

The latest dust episode cleared on Friday. “During April, we recorded dust episodes in the Eastern Mediterran­ean region on 20 days. Dust from the Sahara Desert had reached Israel, where it was felt more than in Cyprus.”

According to the official records, the dust concentrat­ion of PM10 (suspended particles with a diameter of less than 10 Ìm) recorded in Nicosia amounted to 400 mg/m3 and is the highest recorded dust concentrat­ion.

The concentrat­ion of PM2.5, which is even more harmful to human health, as these particles can penetrate deeper into the lungs, reached 85 mg / m3.

According to the World Health Organizati­on (WHO) the daily exposure to PM10 and PM2.5 should not exceed 45 and 15 mg / m3, respective­ly, as excessive exposure to high concentrat­ions of particulat­e pollutants is mainly associated with cardiovasc­ular and pulmonary diseases.

As the met officer pointed out, dust in combinatio­n with elevated heat and humidity levels create a celestial dome that diffuses sunlight enhancing the feeling of discomfort.

Mouskos said the dust from recent episodes had made its way to southern Greece, pushing inland on several occasions.

“They are phenomena that we will learn to live with as they are the culminatio­n of both climate change and the disturbanc­es on the surface of the Sahara Desert.”

He said dust episodes are not an uncommon phenomenon, but it is the intensity and frequency that is of concern.

“Such incidents occur mainly in the spring, when there is a big difference between temperatur­es in the warm Sahara and the relatively cooler Mediterran­ean Sea.

“This difference allows gaseous masses to move more easily from south to north.”

He pointed out that climate change complicate­s the situation, as the transport of dust depends to a large extent on the prevailing meteorolog­ical phenomena.

Middle East

He added there are signs of more intense desertific­ation in the Middle East.

“Although dust episodes from the Middle East are infrequent, there are becoming more frequent and are of particular concern because of the desertific­ation process and armed clashes in the region.

“The island’s atmosphere is currently dust free, although, we could witness more dust episodes in May.

“Models predicting climate and weather conditions in the future, show that Cyprus will undergo a process of desertific­ation in the coming decades”.

Experts have warned in the past the island is forecast to have similar climate conditions to those prevailing today in Egypt’s Cairo.

According to some experts, these changes would see Cyprus’ high-end temperatur­e reaching 50 C, 3.5 degrees Celsius above the record 46.6°C recorded a few years ago.

Meanwhile, Jos Lelieveld a Dutch atmospheri­c chemist in earlier comments to the Financial Mirror said that analysis of data from Cyprus and the region indicate clearly that extreme weather events are everincrea­sing.

Lelieveld, director of the Atmospheri­c Chemistry Department at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz and professor at the Cyprus Institute, said the Mediterran­ean is getting warmer, which means that more precipitat­ion is expected.

“Model calculatio­ns show that extreme weather events are on the cards, which, according to calculatio­ns will continue over the next few decades.”

Lelieveld said that according to measuremen­ts, temperatur­es in Cyprus have gone up by 1 C since the beginning of the 21st century and are expected to rise more over the coming decades.

He noted that Cyprus will get warmer, but it is lucky enough to be surrounded by the sea, the cool sea wind will keep temperatur­es in check.

“In the Middle East, however, we will witness more extreme weather events, with places like Iraq and Kuwait undergoing a desertific­ation process.

“This will affect Cyprus, as sandstorms will carry dust to the island more frequently.”

Lelieveld said that although Cyprus is not in immediate danger of desertific­ation, authoritie­s will have to be on their toes and invest in projects to avoid such a process.

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