Thermometer-busting Sweihan tops 50°C again but residents take heat in their stride

The mercury is rising around the globe, but it was just another summer's day for people in sun-baked Sweihan

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Temperatures topped 50°C for a second day in a row in scorching Sweihan on Wednesday as the town in Al Ain lived up to its billing as a major UAE hot spot.

After the mercury rose to a sizzling 51°C on Tuesday, it was a barely cooler 50.3°C on Wednesday. Those were the hottest temperatures recorded across the Emirates on those days.

Soaring temperatures are the subject of hot debate around the world, but it was just another summer's day for the many people of Sweihan.

After all, it hit 51.8°C in the town in June 2021 — the hottest temperature on Earth on that particular day.

It may have been a whole 1.5°C cooler on Wednesday, but it was still hot enough to break a thermometer when The National visited.

The device showed a base-level reading of 33°C before rapidly climbing to 43°C and then beeping and switching itself off.

It seems not all technology is built to withstand the searing desert sun.

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Leaving parked cars' engines running to maintain air conditioning also caused difficulties, when workers stopped at roadside cafes to grab a bite to eat and their radiators overheated.

But the people of Sweihan were more than able to cope.

In the UAE’s sweltering desert heat, staff at cafes and repair shops went about their daily routines as normal on Wednesday, serving customers from the police station and local farms.

Turning up the heat

It has been a different story around the world as large parts of grassland have become a tinderbox across Europe this summer, with wildfires across France, Spain, Portugal and the UK — where the hottest day on record was recorded in July when it was 40.3°C at Heathrow Airport.

Three of the four hottest days recorded in the UK have occurred in the past four years, with the country now facing water shortages and a widespread hosepipe ban.

Meanwhile in the US, a heat dome hanging over the Pacific North-west has caused average temperatures of 38°C across the country this summer, from New York to Las Vegas.

It has been even hotter in Dallas, Texas, where the heat peaked at 44°C last month.

The US is also the country with the hottest recorded temperature since records began.

The aptly named "Furnace Creek" weather station in California noted a fiery 56.7°C on July 10, 1913.

It has been a year of extreme weather, with a global pattern of rising temperatures and climate change attributed by many scientists to human activity.

Heatwaves are likely to become more intense and frequent across most land regions in the next few years, the UN's global panel of climate scientists says.

Atmospheric conditions also play a part in increasingly common heatwaves, with changes to the jet stream — a fast-moving air current in the Northern Hemisphere — increasing their frequency, a study in scientific journal Nature has said.

Professor Jos Lelieveld, of The Cyprus Institute and the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany, studies weather patterns and climate change in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, and said recent high temperatures could become commonplace.

“Our research has shown that the rate of climate change in the Middle East is twice that of the world,” he said.

“Especially summers are warming rapidly, which is related to the atmospheric circulation and the prevalent dryness. The Gulf region is affected most strongly.

“The strong warming triggers additional use of air conditioning, utilising fossil fuels and emitting greenhouse gases.

“This creates a vicious circle, and the region has overtaken Europe in the emission of greenhouse gases.

“A commitment to the enhanced use of renewable energy, which is plentiful in the Middle East, will be very important.”

In the desert town of Sweihan, scorching temperatures have become a part of everyday life, particularly at this time of year.

Thankfully, some respite is in store, with the heat of recent days due to subside to a balmy 45°C on Thursday and Friday, the National Centre for Meteorology forecasts, with cooling rain on Sunday.

Updated: August 11, 2022, 11:05 AM
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