Dubai meteorologist tells Time Out whether it will be a record summer
If you’ve been in Dubai during the summer months, you’ll know what to expect. Rather than the usually buzzing al-fresco culture of outdoor souks, beach sports and desert safaris, residents tend to hibernate in comfortable air-conditioned buildings. During late June, July and August, Dubai’s subtropical climate, clear skies and parched atmosphere can reach temperatures as high as 47°C in the shade. But have you ever wondered if it’s getting hotter? Whether this year is as hot as last? We chatted to senior meteorologist Stephen Davenport from world weather specialist MeteoGroup about this, as well as places to avoid the heat and exactly why it’s so darn sweaty here.
Why does Dubai get so hot? ‘The main reason for the heat in Dubai is the obvious one: because it is situated close to the equator. It sits north of the equator, where the sun is overhead in the summer and where there are broad regions of high pressure around the globe, coinciding with the great deserts of the world. The UAE also sits on the coastline along the Gulf, and in summer there are periods where the wind is coming from the northwest (ie the direction of the sea). The sea temperature is not as high and this moderates the temperature near the coast but increases the humidity (ie airborne water), which is why people feel uncomfortable. When the wind is blowing from the southeast or east, it is blown over the Hajar Mountains or the arid desert. This brings the highest temperatures but much lower humidity; temperatures in the mid 40s with dry air can feel more comfortable than temperatures in the mid 30s with high humidity.’
Why does it feel warmer when it’s humid? ‘The body loses heat through perspiration, and when you sweat it struggles to evaporate into humid (already waterlogged)air. Essentially, our natural air conditioning doesn’t work.’
Are there any places near Dubai where we can escape the heat? ‘You can get away from the humidity by taking a trip up to the mountains where it’s less humid, away from the coast. Yet the farther inland you are within the UAE, the hotter it generally is. High in the mountains the temperature may also drop a couple of degrees. The atmosphere is heated indirectly by the sun warming the ground and this heat transferring to the air. Allied with pressure falling with height, temperatures generally fall at altitude.’
What is the hottest temperature ever recorded in Dubai? ‘It was 47.5°C in the shade. Temperatures are always recorded in the shade because meteorologists need to measure the air’s temperature at the surface, not the temperature of something warmed by the sun. The thermometer can also be affected by the temperatures of materials around it when it’s in direct sunlight.’
Has the temperature here increased over the years? ‘It’s hard to say, because Dubai’s recorded climate history is so short – only 39 years – and for any significant comparison you’d have to go back further in time.’
Which other places in the Middle East are even warmer than the UAE? ‘There are places that are hotter, such as Kuwait (during the summer) and Saudi Arabia. Both recorded their highest ever temperature in the shade in 2010, reaching 52.6°C in Abdaly, Kuwait, and 52°C in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.’
How is this region affected by global warming, and could this be a factor in future temperature increases? ‘It’s impossible to say. Global warming is such a slow process. At the moment, in any one part of the world, it’s true to say that if current temperatures continue there is a greater chance of higher temperatures in the future. This is impossible to apply to any small area.’
Is the UAE one of the hottest places in the world? ‘It is indeed. However, one of the highest temperatures ever recorded was at Death Valley in, California and clocked in at 56.7°C in the shade in 1912, although there are disputed claims that Al ’Aziziyah in Libya recorded the world’s highest temperature: 57.8°C in 1922.’
We’ve heard rumours about areas of Oman where temperatures are as low as 28°C in summer. Do you know of any? ‘During the summer, places such as Salalah are a lot less hot. It’s often drizzly, though, which makes it a lovely green area next to the desert where you can escape the extreme heat. The summer winds tend to be off the sea so the temperature is moderated by the sea temperature, although the humidity is high.’
Do you have any weather forecasts for the UAE this year? ‘It will be a typically hot summer. August will be the hottest month on average, with maximum temperatures around 45°C, while July will be in the high 30s and low 40s, and June will be between 35°C and 40°C.’
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steve Jun 02, 2011 03:21 pm
Your figures are rather econonical to say the least, considering we have already just experienced temperatures of 48.1 in May your estimates of maximum temps antipcated temps to come in June July & August bear no relation to reality. Really wonder why the real temperatures are never reported accurately.