A new study has found that projected hot weather extremes brought on by global climate change could make part of the Middle East and North Africa uninhabitable by the end of the current century, possibly triggering migration.
The study, co-authored by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and The Cyprus Institute, predicts that expected heat extremes in MENA, a naturally hot and dry region, will have serious humanitarian consequences if global warming continues undeterred.
"MENA is a climate change hotspot that could turn into a scorching area in summer," the researchers wrote in the study published in the scientific journal Climatic Change .
They compared climate model results for the mid-century (2046–2065) and end-century (2081–2100) periods to the 1986–2005 period, while focusing on hot temperature conditions during summer.
The study found that heat extremes – attributed to human-induced climate change – in MENA have increased in the past decades and the occurrence of cool days and nights has decreased. Additionally, the number of warm days and nights has approximately doubled since the 1970s.
To investigate climate change data in MENA, the researchers used two projected scenarios for the future of human-induced global warming that have been adopted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change .
In the first scenario, greenhouse gas emissions are expected to peak around 2040 and then decline. In the second scenario, which is referred to as the "business-as-usual scenario," the emissions continue to rise throughout the century.
The study found that MENA's maximum daytime temperature during the hottest days is about 43 degrees Celsius, with the results indicating it will reach 47 degrees by the middle of the century. In the second scenario it will reach nearly 50 degrees by the end of the century.
It also found that the region's average duration of warm spells is 16 days, with the results indicating it will increase to about 80–120 days by the middle of the century. In the second scenario it may exceed 200 days by the end of the century.
As for the warmest nights, which on average are below 30 degrees Celsius, the results indicate that they will surpass 30 degrees by the middle of the century. In the second scenario they will reach over 34 degrees by the end of the century.
The researchers state that if these projected temperature increases become reality, part of MENA could become uninhabitable for some species, including humans.
"There is general consent that heat extremes impact human health, contribute to the spreading of food and water borne diseases, and that more intense heat waves increase premature mortality," they concluded, adding that it is also recognized that "hot weather extremes cause a loss of work capacity and aggravate societal stresses."
"We anticipate that climate change and increasing hot weather extremes in the MENA, a region subject to economic recession, political turbulence and upheaval, may exacerbate humanitarian hardship and contribute to migration."
The body of research issuing warnings about MENA's vulnerability to climate change and how it has caused the worsening climate conditions engulfing the region, has dramatically increased in recent years. A recent NASA study found that climate change caused the Middle East's worst drought in 900 years and that droughts in the region are expected to get worse with increasing global warming.