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Blame it on the weatherman.

CAIRO: School textbooks teach students that Egypt's climate is generally warm, rainy in winter and moderately hot during the summer. However, this information has proved misleading, with this year's short-lived 'winter.'

Egyptians, especially Cairo residents, are experiencing very few cold winter days this year with rarely any rain, leaving them with what seems to be a prolonged summer.

Climate experts were left puzzled by this year's change.

In Cairo, average temperatures in January are around 19A[bar]C and in February range between 25A[bar]C and 26A[bar]C. However, this year it was noted that average temperatures increased in January to reach 25A[bar]C.

"This winter has been abnormal in Egypt; especially when compared to other countries in the northern hemisphere," Ali Qotb, head of the analysis and forecast department and media consultant at the Egyptian Meteorological Authority, said.

"Most temperatures recorded this winter have been higher than the average meteorological rates. On the other hand, in North West Africa as well as southern Europe temperatures were very low accompanied by heavy rain," Qotb said.

Qotb however did not rule out a decline in temperatures before the end of the winter and expected this to happen in the coming few days. "We can't evaluate any season before it ends," he said.

According to the International Association of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science, the world's temperature has only decreased by 0.75A[bar]C in the last 150 years.

Qotb says this change in weather can also be affected byAa geographical distribution. For example, urban expansion in Cairo has reached 70 km to the south, and although its repercussions are currently limited, they shouldn't be overlooked.

He further explained that the shortage of rain can be attributed to pressure cycles existing at the high spheres that control the earth in terms of place and amount of rain. "For example, when the amount of rain decreases in Egypt, it increases in other places like southern and eastern Europe and North West Africa and vice versa," Qotb said.

"According to the global warming theory, the rise in temperatures will increase the amount of rain therefore raise the sea level which isn't the case here," he added.

This winter, Europe experienced the lowest temperature in years; Germany's overnight temperatures dropped below -20A[bar]C, Belgium recorded its lowest temperatures in a decade at -21A[bar]C.

"The change can be considered more natural than related to global climate change because of wind movement in the northern and southern hemispheres which explains the gap between weather in Egypt and the rest of the world," he said.

Qotb added that it is impossible to predict the temperatures in store for us next season.

Global warming is one of the most serious challenges the world is facing today and Egypt is considered one of the most affected countries by its ramifications.

A rise of 3.3 feet (one meter) would flood a quarter of the Delta, forcing about 10.5 percent of Egypt's population from their homes, according to the World Bank.

The impact would be all the more staggering if Egypt's population, as expected, doubles to about 160 million by the middle of the century. The Delta is already densely packed with about 4,000 people per square mile (2.6 square kilometer).

According to El Sayed Sabry, supervisor of the climate change unit at the Ministry of Environmental Affairs, the effect on Egypt will include a decline in water resources because of the change in rain patterns in the Nile water supplies, tourism will be affected by the bleaching of coral reefs as well as the flood of tourist resorts.

"We have to develop a risk management plan to face disasters resulting from climate change and global warming and this includes an integrated coastal zone management as well as different irrigation methods," he told Daily News Egypt.

Egypt contributes less than 0.5 percent to the global emissions of greenhouse gases (gases that cause climate change.)

"What makes the problem worse in Cairo is the bad urban planning, the crowded streets and the lack of air refreshment channels," Sabry said.

The agriculture sector will be the most affected by this climate change as high demand on water and low quantities available will decrease the productivity of crops as well as the type of crops grown in Egypt.

"The increasing temperature will in turn increase the dry substance in the plants leading to a decrease in the amount of crops and increased consumption of water," Samia El Marsafawy, vice president of Soil, Water and Environment Research Institute (SWERI) affiliated with Agricultural Research Center (ARC) told Daily News Egypt.

"The unstable weather last winter resulted in the burning of the mango groves and spoilt tomato fields in the summer," she saidAa

"We need to conduct adaptation studies in order to discover suitable plants [that have a short life span], choose plants that can endure dryness, high salinity and high temperatures and change the farming cycle," El Marsafawy said

She added that the higher temperatures will result in a decrease in the harvest of maize by 19 percent, wheat by 18 percent, rice by 11 percent and soybean by 28 percent; the only exception will be cotton which will increase by 17 percent because it thrives on heat.

"An adaptation study we conducted last year succeeded in decreasing the loss in the corn harvest from 21 percent to 1 percent by changing a factor inside the plant to make the crop yield in May instead of June," El Marsafawy said.

"For example, we have to decrease the area of land used to cultivateAa rice to face the shortage of water; we currently have a million and a half feddans while the ministry had only allocated 900,000 feddans ," she added.

However, she refuted any effect of shortage of rain on agriculture saying that the irrigation system in Egypt doesn't depend on rain except in some parts of the North Coast.

El Marsafawy said that there must be awareness campaigns to guide farmers on how to deal with the problem and choose what crops to grow.

Daily NewsEgypt 2009

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Publication:Daily News Egypt (Egypt)
Date:Feb 10, 2009
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