Climate change bringing Algerian heatwaves, expert says

In the Northern African country of Algeria, temperatures have been gradually dropping in recent years, but this summer Algerians have suffered a heat wave lasting over 40 days, with temperatures consistently topping 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).


The Tassili Desert in Algeria. (click to enlarge)

Normally, a heat wave is declared when temperatures hover from 30 to 35 degrees Celsius, so this summer’s heat is off the charts. However, being a desert nation, Algeria is quite used to sweltering heat on a daily basis.

What has changed is that heat waves used to be relatively uncommon in Algeria. Siroccos, hot gusts of wind coming southward from the Mediterranean, usually made things steamy during the last few weeks of July, but in recent years, there is no way to predict these extreme temperatures: they just happen.

Mahi Tabet-Aoul, an Algerian atmospheric scientist, told the Guardian that Algerians experience “heatwaves at any time of the year with variable intensities. We will experience more heatwaves thanks to climate change, and we need to learn how to adapt to them in the long term.”

Heat waves are dangerous in more ways than just an increased risk of heat-related injury and disease. The increased heat evaporates much more water than usual, sapping water from reservoirs. The sun can be so intense that it evaporates moisture right out of the soil, leading to a crop condition called “scalding”.

Algeria is a minimal contributor to climate change, falling very low on the list of top emitters and top per-capita emitters of greenhouse gases, yet it is one of the first to feel the effects of human actions on the planet’s atmosphere.

Tabet-Aoul also reports that minimum temperatures are rising more dramatically than the maximum temperatures. So, while it is unlikely that summer 2050 in Algeria will be 45 Celsius, it is quite possible that the winters will not dip below freezing.

Read Tabet-Aoul’s interview with the Guardian here.