Climate Change May Not Boost Middle East Rainfall

The original idea that global warming will cause flood and water shortages in the Middle East is being refuted by an Australian climate scientist. The scientist’s findings suggest that rainfall might actually even increase in key parts of the area.

According to the most recent projections from the IPCC or the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, storm activity in the Eastern Mediterranean will decline within this century if global warming continues on its current path. Because of this, it is predicted that there would be reduced rainfall by 15 to 25 percent over a big part of the Fertile Crescent.

Dr. Jason Evans from the University of New South Wales Climate Change Research Center, studied the IPPC projections, he found that the regions’ agricultural base faced significant challenges as a result. Around 17,000 sq. km. of agricultural land would be lost. There would be longer dry seasons that would limit grazing on rangelands. Farmers would have to change their cropping strategies and even crop types due to the changes in the timing of maximum rainfall.

However, the IPCC pahehjections were based on global modelling results of climate change, which obscure the finer smaller-scale effects.

Dr. Evan says: "The global models are good for investigating what’s likely to happen on a planetary scale but the resolution is quite coarse when looking at a more localized regional scale. It’s a bit like enlarging a digital photograph until it becomes pixellated and all sorts of detail are blurred out."

Dr. Evan further adds that "Simulating the climate of the region is a challenge for climate models, due in part to the high natural inter-annual variability, the topography of the region – which includes multiple mountain ranges and inland seas – and the presence of a slight cooling trend in recent decades despite the global trend being a warming."

Thus, there will be a second far more detailed further study will be published in the Journal of Hydrometeorology where Dr. Evan used regional climate modelling that is specific to the Middle East.

The result was very different. While storm activity over the Easter Mediterranean would really decline, moisture-bearing winds would be channelled inland more often and diverted by the Zagros Mountains. This will bring an increase in the annual rainfall to the Tigris-Euphrates watershed by up to 50%.

"We need to confirm this result with other models, but a 50 per cent increase in rainfall in such an important agricultural area is a much more hopeful scenario than a 15 per cent decline," says Dr. Evans.

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