High temperatures in summer are common in Iraq. Growing desertification — where fertile land turns dry — is pushing temperatures up. The Iraqi government has announced yesterday a two-day mandatory official holiday beginning today due to a heat wave as temperatures are soaring above 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) in the Iraqi capital Baghdad. It is the first heat advisory issued by the Iraqi government this summer. It is not uncommon for such public holidays to be declared when severe heatwaves hit during Iraq’s long, hot summers. The temperatures in southern Iraq even touched 54 degrees Celsius (129 degrees Fahrenheit)!
The world is on track for its hottest year on record and levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have reached new highs, further fuelling global warming, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said.
On the heels of two record-setting years for global heat, 2016 is likely to set a new high for the planet in modern times. Two key climate change indicators — global surface temperatures and Arctic sea ice extent — have broken numerous records through the first half of 2016, according to NASA analyses of ground-based observations and satellite data.
Each of the first six months of 2016 set a record as the warmest respective month globally in the modern temperature record, which dates to 1880, according to scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York. The six-month period from January to June was also the planet’s warmest half-year on record, with an average temperature 1.3 degrees Celsius (2.4 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the late nineteenth century.
The extent of Arctic sea ice at the peak of the summer melt season now typically covers 40 percent less area than it did in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Arctic sea ice extent in September, the seasonal low point in the annual cycle, has been declining at a rate of 13.4 percent per decade.
Previous El Niño events have driven temperatures to what were then record levels, such as in 1998. But in 2016, even as the effects of the recent El Niño taper off, global temperatures have risen well beyond those of 18 years ago because of the overall warming that has taken place in that time.
Iraq’s summers are known for their merciless heat, but just as Iraqis have shown resilience and ingenuity in dealing with the violence, they do likewise when it comes to exceptionally hot days. Some shop-owners are merciful to shoppers, setting up showers on the sidewalk that men stood under without hesitation to cool off.
Iraqis are undeterred by severe heatwaves and can be seen dancing at a party in Baghdad. Well, that’s the spirit! Isn’t it?