Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Climate change brings drought to eastern Mediterranean

Christine Piravolakis in Monsters & Critics: At first glance, the water flowing into Cyprus' largest reservoir looks like a raging torrent. But in reality, the volume of water that runs from the Kouris River into the dam represents a trickle of what the nearby city of Limassol actually needs. Huge sand dunes dot the landscape and the fish and birds have disappeared as a crippling drought has made reservoirs, like the Kouros dam, resemble parched dirt bowls during the summer.

Water was once in abundance on the eastern Mediterranean island, which started promoting itself as a tourist haven - complete with resorts, golf courses and gardens - in the 1960s. But analysts say the rise in temperature and fall in rainfall will likely turn the once relatively lush island into a Saudi Arabian-like desert by the end of this century as it feels the brunt of climate change. The sun, once the island's key selling point as a tourism destination, could turn into a major problem if forecasts on changing weather patterns throughout the eastern Mediterranean prove to be correct.

Costas Papastavros, an agriculture and natural resources ministry official, says freshwater has always been a scarce commodity in the semi-arid Mediterranean. Now Cyprus is joining a group of countries where there will be an increased level of drought and desertification due to climate change. 'Statistics clearly show that over the last 100 years the average yearly rainfall on the island has decreased by about 90 millimetres,' says Papastavros.

Experts estimate that the rise in summer temperatures on Cyprus will average between two and four degrees this century, when compared with average 1960s temperatures of 20.1 Centigrade. Temperatures already exceed 35 degrees Celsius at the height of summer….

On a jetty with a view of Limassol, shot by Kükedi, Tamás, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License

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