The Malta Independent 25 May 2024, Saturday
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TMID Editorial: Rain in the desert

Thursday, 18 April 2024, 10:22 Last update: about 2 months ago

Footage of Dubai being pelted with heavy rain and the ensuing flooding of the streets and the airport has made the rounds on mainstream television and the social media in the past two days.

It’s not that these things have not happened in the past. We have seen many countries suffering damage caused by heavy storms that cause landslides, flood populated areas with the water carrying away everything it finds in its path, and at times even cause deaths and injuries.


But for such rain to be experienced in a country which is known for being dry almost all the year round is something that does create more than general interest – and also concern about the changes to the world’s climate.

On Tuesday more than 142 millimetres of rain fell on Dubai in 24 hours. Considering that the average yearly – yes, yearly – rainfall is 94.7 millimetres then what happened two days ago is more than a simple phenomenon. Clearly, places like Dubai – which is part of the Arabian Desert – are not prepared for such downpours.

It is yet another proof that the world is undergoing changes to the overall climate that could bring havoc. Actually, they are already bringing devastation in many areas, as extreme weather – hot and cold, rain and dryness – is becoming the order of the day.

Here in Malta, just to give an example that we can relate with, according to the Met Office the total rainfall for March was a mere 8.8 millimetres, which is more or less one-fourth of the average 39.7 millimetres that normally fall in that particular month. Our summers are becoming hotter too, with heat waves becoming more frequent and lasting longer.

On a wider scale, in March a new monthly record was set for global heat on Earth, with both air temperatures and the world’s oceans hitting an all-time high. March 2024 averaged 14.4 degrees Celsius, exceeding the previous record from 2016 by a tenth of a degree. It was 1.68 degrees warmer than in the late 1800s, the base used for temperatures before the burning of fossil fuels began growing rapidly.

Since last June, each month the Earth has broken records in terms of temperatures, with contribution from marine heat waves across the oceans.

There are some people who still deny that the world’s climate is changing. What is worrying is that the world may be reacting too late to reverse the trend, and some countries are defending their own interests without seeing the bigger picture.

What is also concerning is that it is taking very long to take decisions that could somewhat slow down global warming, and then it takes even longer for the measures drawn up to be implemented and have an effect.

What is sure is that future generations will have a more difficult time with weather phenomena, just as much as we are already having more difficult times than our ancestors did.


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