By Marion V. Ali
Temperatures for the first seven months of 2015 have shown that 2015 has been the hottest year on record, and the month just past, July, was the hottest one yet since 1891!
Weather experts explain that El Niño is currently going through a strengthening phase, and from all indicators, it will be another extremely big one.
Two Fridays ago, the temperature in Bandar Mahshahr, Iran, soared to a staggering heat index of 163 degrees, as a heat wave baked the Middle East, already one of the hottest places on earth.
“That was one of the most incredible temperature observations I have ever seen, and it is one of the most extreme readings ever in the world”, AccuWeather meteorologist Anthony Sagliani said in a statement.
While the temperature was “only” 115 degrees, the dew point was 90 degrees. The day before, the Iranian city of about 100,000 reached a heat index of 154 degrees.
The combination of heat and humidity, measured by the dew point, is what makes the heat index — or what the temperature actually feels like outside.
Meanwhile locally, trends at the Belize Meteorological Service at the Philip Goldson International Airport (PGIA) in Ladyville show that temperatures there have been on a gradual rise for the past 56 years, with an average increase in temperatures of around 0.9 °C. Over that period, the PGIA recorded the coolest temperatures in the 1970’s, with 1971 being the coolest, and the 1990’s the warmest.
Deputy Chief Meteorologist, Katherine Cumberbatch told The Reporter that the warmest single year was 1997 with an average temperature of 27.3 °C.
From 1960 to 2014, the ten warmest years in descending order awere 1997, 2007, 1998, 1995, 1991, 2005, 2002, 2003, 2011 and 2013. Six of these occurred in the 21st century and four in the 90’s .
Over the same time period, the 1970’s were also the coolest decade at Central Farm, and the 2000’s were the warmest. That location recorded the warmest single year as 1998. 1976 was the coolest.
But while the temperatures have been on a upward trend, climate change experts say there has not yet been an assessment on the local impacts of heat waves in Belize.
TheReporter contacted the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) in Belmopan for answers, after observing beach erosions in Monkey River, Hopkins and areas near Punta Gorda a few months ago. We asked if those phenomena were the direct result of the changing temperatures.
Timo Baur of the CCCCC told us that “We haven`t heard of direct impacts of high temperatures to beach erosion, but theoretically there can be an effect on water levels due to the expansion of the water volume. Those changed water levels then can have an impacts on coastal erosion.”
Baur explained that more predominant causes of these physical negative impacts on the earth “are usually human activity along rivers and coast, such as dam and reservoir impoundments on rivers, or other means of changing the flows of rivers that feed in to the area, e.g. by extracting too much water from them.”
He did indicate, however, that projections are that “it is very likely that temperatures will further increase due to global warming.”
Though not an official record, the highest heat index ever recorded was in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, when it hit 178 degrees in July 2003.