Browsing 'heat' News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

OAS Photos/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Qatar’s capital and several other Gulf cities will in the future become too hot for human survival during the summer if climate change forecasts prove accurate, according to research published this week.

Writing in the journal Nature Climate Change, American academics Jeremy Pal and Elfatih Eltahir said Doha, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Dhahran in Saudi Arabia and Bandar Abbas in Iran will experience temperature levels that are “intolerable to humans” by the end of this century due to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Sam Agnew/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Temperatures above 45C will become the norm throughout July, August and September in many of the region’s low-lying cities while urban areas such as Kuwait City and Al Ain will see temperatures hit 60C in some years, the report stated.

The authors said Qatar is especially vulnerable:

“Doha is uniquely geographically positioned to receive hot dry air from the desert interior to the west and hot moist air from the Gulf,” they said in the report.

The research used a measurement known as “wet bulb temperature” (WBT) that takes into account both temperature and humidity. In simple terms, it’s the temperature of air that’s been cooled by evaporating moisture.

Exposure to a WBT of 35C (95F) for six hours or more “would probably be intolerable even for the fittest of humans” and lead to hyperthermia. According to a report in the Guardian, a WBT of 35C is equivalent to a combination of 46C heat and 50 percent humidity.

The report added that several cities in the region are approaching, but have not yet exceeded, this threshold. In the case of Doha, forecasts suggest this limit could be breached between the years 2095 and 2100.

Global warming

The authors said their research suggests that countries such as Qatar would benefit considerably by supporting international efforts to cut greenhouse gases and limit the rise in global temperatures.

In a comprehensive 2011 climate change report to the UN, Qatar acknowledged that an increase in temperatures and reduction in rainfall would further stress the desert country’s environment.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Chantelle D'mello / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

This, in turn, could lead to increased cases of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

However, Qatar also noted that a sharp reduction in greenhouse gas emissions could cause the country financial hardships if the world suddenly stopped buying and burning its fossil fuels.

The Nature Climate Change article comes on the heels of a longer and hotter-than-normal summer here, with temperatures on average being 6C warmer in Doha than in a normal month, according to the country’s meteorology department.

One of the primary culprit was El Niño, a climate cycle that’s typically associated with warmer temperatures. However, the Qatar MET also said climate change is playing a role.

Climate change experts and politicians from around the world are scheduled to meet in Paris this December to hash out a new strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emission and limit the rise in the earth’s temperatures.

Qatar and the rest of the GCC countries missed an Oct. 1 deadline to submit reports quantifying their emissions and how they plan to reduce them.

But the UAE and Oman have since filed their reports.

Thoughts?

Affected neighborhood in Fereej Abdul Aziz

Chantelle D'mello

Affected neighborhood in Fereej Abdul Aziz

Hundreds of people living in Fereej Abdul Aziz off of B-Ring Road have been rendered effectively homeless this week after a power outage hit a six-building residential complex late Sunday evening.

Without electricity and water, several people living in the complex – which houses families and laborers – have reportedly fallen ill due to the heat, and some have been taken to the hospital.

Speaking to Doha News this afternoon, Khalid Sher, a Pakistani expat and a member of the Qatar Armed Forces who has lived in the complex for the past five years, said that the issue stemmed from a short-circuited electricity panel.

He said power in one of the buildings in the complex got cut off late Sunday evening, and some of the affected tenants tried to fix the damage themselves.

“They weren’t electricians, so I doubt they knew what they were doing. As they tried to fix it…I’m not sure what happened…but power supply to all of the other five buildings and some 10 to 12 shops on the other side, facing the main road, also got cut.”

Coping strategies

The power outage comes at the peak of Doha’s summer, with temperatures reaching highs of 47C this week.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Pete/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Without air conditioning, most residents have vacated their apartments and sought shelter in nearby hotels, and family and friends’ homes.

Others have been spending nights in their cars, said Sher, whose family has gone to stay with relatives.

Speaking to Doha News this afternoon, one Filipina tenant who returned briefly to her flat today said:

“The first day (Sunday night), we stayed in because we thought that the power supply would come back shortly. Two days later, and still nothing.”

The woman, along with her husband and mother-in-law, are now staying at her sister-in-law’s place in Al Sadd. Her brother-in-law, who lives in an adjacent apartment, has rented a hotel room to escape the heat.

According to her mother-in-law, who has lived in the apartment for over 20 years, such power outages are common during the summer.

“There’s no maintenance here. We have to pay for everything. But the rent is cheap – just QR6,500 for families – so we stay here. There’s no other choice,” she said.

Water woes

According to the family, and several others who also spoke to Doha News, the lack of electricity also means that the water supply has become inaccessible.

“The water runs on a motor, which sends the water upstairs from a downstairs tank. Because the electricity got cut, the motor didn’t work, and the water has been (merely) pooling downstairs in the tank,” Sher said.

Replacement generator

Chantelle D'mello

Replacement generator

Residents in his building chipped in to buy a generator to kickstart the water motor, but at capacity, the system can only supply water for up to 10 hours a day.

“We barely washed our dishes, and did a bit of cooking, and the water had gone. It’s been a big difficulty,” the Filipina tenant said.

In a nearby building, several other tenants had tried to install a makeshift generator, but had neglected to include an exhaust system.

As a result, smoke and gasoline fumes spread throughout the building, and three people were taken to the hospital at around 5am this morning after suffering respiratory illnesses.

While families living the area have managed to find temporary shelter, some 280 men who live in one of the six buildings have had to instead bed down on roofs, cars or in their sweltering apartments.

“We have nowhere else to go. What can we do? If there were some (rich people) living here, this would have been fixed in an hour. It’s because we are poor and can’t say anything that it has taken so long,” said one worker who asked to remain anonymous.

Several other tenants said that they had taken to sleeping during the day in a nearby mosque or on the building’s roof during the night.

“There’s no water to bathe or wash our clothes, or cook, nothing,” said another resident.

Investigation

It is still unclear why the power went out in the area, but several residents theorized that one of the panels stopped working because the electricity supply was overloaded.

Electricity technician

Chantelle D'mello

Electricity technician

Tenants said five of the buildings house families of four to five people per flat, but the sixth building has up to 20 people in each apartment, most of them construction workers.

According to Sher, Kahramaa officials arrived shortly after the outage to inspect the burned out panels, but said that the issue was the owner’s responsibility.

They shut down the power supply to minimize any additional damage before leaving the area. One Egyptian tenant said:

“Kahramaa is only responsible for connecting the lines and delivering the power. This maintenance work is the owner’s responsibility, so Kahramaa asked that the owners had to come down and handle it.

But it was the third day of Eid and people were busy that day, so the owners could only come by the next day.”

On Monday morning, the landlord and some technicians stopped by to begin repairing the electricity panel. However, according to Sher, companies that supply the needed materials and rent temporary generators were closed for Eid, so work was put on hold.

This afternoon, Doha News observed several technicians working to replace the short-circuited panels. Also, a large generator was brought in by laborers living in one building to supply power to their own flats.

Sher said:

“The generator is for just one that one building. The rest of us still have no electricity. I understand that it’s not Kahramaa’s (jurisdiction), but they should have helped us. They have the equipment and the generators. The least they could have done is set up a temporary generator, given that the usual companies that rent it were closed on Sunday and Monday.”

Kahramaa was not immediately available for comment, but did say over the weekend during a separate power outage that such problems were sometimes caused by unapproved electricity use.

Loss of business

The lack of power has also affected a row of nearby groceries, bakeries, and garages that run on the ground floor of one of the buildings, facing a main road.

Affected shops

Chantelle D'mello / Doha News

Affected shops

Speaking to Doha News, an employee at the Al Khoulosathy restaurant and supermarket said:

“We’ve had to throw everything out. Things that were in freezers and refrigerators, fresh food, everything. Around QR10,000 worth of produce, milk, fish, chicken…we had to just throw out.”

Another shopkeeper who operates a nearby bakery said that he too had incurred at least QR10,000 in damages, since they have not generated any income in the past two days and have also had to dispose of ingredients.

Thoughts?

With May just around the corner and temperatures in Doha already surpassing 40C at times, widespread discontent about the weather is just beginning.

Grumbling aside – and reviving our Sunday photo feature – several local photographers have captured some gorgeous shots of Qatar’s searing sun in the past few weeks.

Here’s a selection of them, as shared in our Doha News Flickr Pool.

Thoughts?