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Israel publishes guidelines to combat extreme heat waves

The mortality rate could increase 8.5% and temperatures could reach 49 Celsius in parts of the country amid rising global temperatures.

A view of a large forest fire near Kiryat Tivon, east of Haifa, June 1, 2020. Photo by Yossi Zamir/Flash90.
A view of a large forest fire near Kiryat Tivon, east of Haifa, June 1, 2020. Photo by Yossi Zamir/Flash90.

Israeli authorities published on Sunday a forecast of possible extreme weather scenarios caused by increasing global temperatures.

The National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA) in the Ministry of Defense and the Israel Meteorological Service examined the possible ramifications of having two severe heat waves in the course of the months from June to September, during which temperatures in the country could reach 49 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit).

A scenario crafted to help government bodies prepare for extreme heat waves found that mortality rates could increase by 8.5%, peak electricity consumption would increase by 10% and the chance of fires would rise.

A heat wave usually includes around a week or 10 days that are warmer than average. There can also be two heat waves within the same month with a short break between them. According to the reference scenario, temperatures in Israel’s coastal plain would reach 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) with more than 50% humidity, mountainous regions would hit 42 degrees Celsius (107.6 Fahrenheit), the Negev Desert and the northern valleys up to 44 degrees Celsius (111 Fahrenheit), with 49 degrees Celsius in the Jordan Valley and the Arava.

“The attribution scenario we are distributing to government ministries showcases the implications of a serious event,” said NEMA director Brig. Gen. (res.) Yoram Laredo.

“The scenario is a binding document and forms the basis for preparation of government ministries and planning and operative bodies. It describes the periods of the year prone to heat waves, their expected frequency, heat maps, peak temperatures expected at any point in Israel and the consequences to prepare for, from an increase in electricity consumption and the risk of huge fires to a significant increase in morbidity and mortality,” he added.

NEMA is responsible for understanding threats to the civilian population and creating reference scenarios for preparing government ministries and emergency bodies accordingly. As a result of the increase in climate-related events in recent years, NEMA and the Israel Meteorological Service have formulated reference scenarios for extreme weather such as floods, fires and now extreme heat waves.

Heat waves can cause major disruptions in daily life and lead to considerable economic damage to the point of harming human life. Their incidence requires early preparation, coordination and involvement of several bodies and authorities in order to reduce damage and return to normal life as quickly as possible.

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