This year’s April temperatures were the lowest recorded in the country in 25 years, it has been revealed – and experts believe it could be caused by climate change.
A detailed analysis of meteorological data spanning more than two decades was extracted from more than 100 stations across the country.
Dr Ahmed Habib, of the UAE’s National Centre of Meteorology, said scientists worked with data and temperature readings dating to 1998 from about 110 weather stations.
“Our extensive network of meteorological stations provides a wealth of information, allowing us to make more accurate comparisons and assessments,” Dr Habib told The National.
“The maximum temperature in April this year peaked at 41.6°C, nearly two degrees lower than the same period in 2003 and over five degrees lower than in 2012, which registered a high of 46.9°C.”
He said the average maximum temperature for April 2023 was 31.9°C, the lowest in the past 25 years.
The closest figure was recorded in 2016, when the average maximum temperature was 32.5°C.
Dr Habib pointed to unique conditions that prevailed during this April and contributed to the drop in temperatures.
“The UAE experienced frequent atmospheric pressure systems which brought in cooler air masses from the Mediterranean Sea and northern Saudi Arabia,” he said.
“This contributed significantly to the general drop in temperature during the month.”
The pressure systems also helped to draw substantial amounts of medium and high clouds from Saudi Arabia towards the UAE.
“Known as cloud cover, these clouds blocked the sun’s rays, further aiding in the reduction of temperatures,” he said.
Increased cloud cover
Dr Diana Francis, who heads the Environmental and Geophysical Sciences lab at Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi, agreed and said that in the past five to 10 years, there had been an increase in cloud cover over the UAE during spring.
This, she said, was caused by global warming.
“Having more clouds in the sky reduces the amount of solar energy at the surface and may have contributed to the cooler temperatures in April,” Dr Francis told The National.
“In one of our studies looking into satellite data for the last two decades, we have found not only cloudiness has increased in spring, but also the rain that comes with it, which is in line with the conclusions of the latest IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] report with regards to changes in the tropics due to global warming.”
April’s temperatures are in stark contrast to this month. The UAE’s mercury hit highs of 44°C in the main coastal cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai in early May.
Germany-based Prof Jos Lelieveld, who researches climate issues affecting the Mediterranean and Middle East, said that climate change was leading to greater variability in temperature and precipitation.
“It’s a bit of an unusual year this year and this is probably true also for the Middle East,” he said.
The overall warming trend in the Middle East was “much larger” than in many other parts of the world, he said.
However, there is variability around this.
“It’s really not a good idea to compare one month with the changes in the climate, because the climate changes are going on a large scale and longer-term,” Prof Lelieveld said.
“These one-month events are very local.”