By Hana Namrouqa

AMMAN – The Middle East, one of the driest regions in the world, will witness shifting rainfall patterns due to climate change which will result in less freshwater for the region’s growing population, according to a new report.

As experts predict effects of climate change to start affecting the region within 50-100 years, the report indicated that Jordan, among other countries including the Palestinian territories and Israel, are already experiencing climatic changes.

In “The Blue Peace: Rethinking Middle East Water” report, which will be officially launched in February in Geneva, experts predicted that changes in climatic patterns will result in shrinking rivers, desertification, receding groundwater levels and shifting rainfall patterns.

The Blue Peace report, a copy of which was made available to The Jordan Times, said that Jordan is among the countries witnessing desertification due to climate change, with predictions that winter temperatures will rise by 2-3.1ºC and summer temperatures will increase by 2.5-3.7ºC over the next 50-70 years.

Director of the Jordan Meteorological Department Abdul Halim Abu Hazim said on Monday that climate change is impacting weather patterns in Jordan, despite the lack of sufficient local studies.

“The year 2010 was the hottest year Jordan has ever witnessed, during which temperatures remained above their annual average and rainfall was lower, compared to previous years,” Abu Hazim told The Jordan Times yesterday.

JMD figures indicate that 35 per cent of the rainy season has been achieved in the north, where rainfall average ranges between 400-580mm, while in the central region 17-20 per cent of the season has been achieved and 10-15 per cent in the south.

Abu Hazim noted that the current wet season is the driest since the 1998-1999 winter, when the country received only 44 per cent of the long-term annual average of eight billion millimetres of rainfall.

He said that rainfall is expected in February, but underscored that amounts will be insufficient to improve the “weak wet season”.

The delay in rainfall accompanied by above-average temperatures during this time of the year will have negative impacts on several sectors, mainly field crops, dam storage, natural pastures and livestock, according to an expert in environment and agriculture.

Sayed Khatari, a professor at the University of Jordan and head of the Jordan Environment Society’s scientific committee, said that it is unusual to see December and January pass without receiving sufficient rain.

“Field crops, such as grains, are in real danger if no rain falls during the coming two weeks, we are possible to suffer from crop failure,” Khatari told The Jordan Times yesterday.

Storage at the country’s major dams is also below the “critical limit”, which will negatively impact cultivation in the Jordan Valley, where farmers rely on water from the King Talal Dam for irrigation, he added.

The Ministry of Water and Irrigation’s latest figures indicate that the Kingdom’s major dams currently hold 37 per cent of their total capacity of 215.44 million cubic metres.

Khatari noted that underground aquifers will not be nourished this year due to the weak wet season, highlighting that this also reduces green cover and natural pastures, and consequently productivity of the livestock sector.

“The government must consider providing herders with alternatives, such as imported fodder,” he suggested.

The Blue Peace report, issued by the Strategic Foresight Group, said that in order for the Middle East to address the climate change, countries should adopt a new regionally developed climate change models.

These models, as recommended by the report, should take into account the requirements, nature and nuances of the countries in the region, so that they are not dependent on global models.

“The countries in the region are interconnected by the water bodies they share and any climate changes in one will affect the rest,” said the report, which redefines water in the Middle East as an instrument for cooperation and suggests 10 recommendations to achieve water security and regional peace.