A view of Ben-Gurion Airport as dust storms descend on Israel.
(photo credit: ISRAEL AIRPORTS AUTHORITY)
As a sandstorm blurred visibility and engulfed much of Israel on Monday, air pollution levels climbed problematically high.
Hourly maximum levels of PM10 – particulate matter with a diameter of 10 microns or less – reached up to 27 times typical daily values on Monday morning, with the highest level recorded at noon in Rehovot, at 1,592 micrograms per cubic meter, according to Environmental Protection Ministry data. On a typical non-stormy day, levels of PM10 rest at around 60 micrograms per cubic meter.
Due to the heavy pollution levels, the Environmental Protection Ministry advised throughout the day that sensitive population members, including those with heart and lung conditions, the elderly, children and pregnant women, refrain from strenuous physical activity.
Although pollution levels reached their peaks in most regions of Israel between noon and 2 p.m., the ministry warned during the evening hours that significant concentrations of dust still impacted much of the country.
Improvements in air quality would only occur once expected rains begin – overnight in the North and gradually, during the morning hours, in the Tel Aviv region, the ministry said.
Other areas in addition to Rehovot with particularly high hourly PM10 values included Hadera, with 1,470 micrograms per cubic meter at 1 p.m.; Modi’in, with 1,193 micrograms per cubic meter at 1 p.m.; Beit Shemesh, with 1,175 micrograms per cubic meter at noon; and Arad, with 1,156 micrograms per cubic meter at noon.
Although the sandstorm only began wreaking havoc on Monday morning, 24-hour average pollution levels were still high as of 6 p.m. on Monday, according to ministry data.
In Rehovot and Hadera, the 24-hour PM10 averages were 8.5 times normal levels, while they were 6.9, 6.7 and 6.5 times typical levels in Tel Aviv, Nir Galim and Kiryat Ata.
The dusty conditions, and the rains projected to begin Monday evening, are the result of a wintry depression coming in from the Aegean Sea through southern Turkey and the Gulf of Iskenderun, Dr. Amos Porat, head of the climate department at the Israel Meteorological Service, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. Strong, southerly to southwesterly winds that brought in the sandstorms were expected to turn to a southwesterly to westerly direction, spurring rains in northern and central areas, Porat explained. Temperatures would become increasingly cool due to cold air flowing in from Eastern Europe and Turkey through the Mediterranean, he said.
For Tuesday, the IMS predicted frequent showers in the North and Center, with a chance of isolated thunderstorms, as well as snowfall on Mount Hermon, and strong winds and unseasonable cold throughout the country. Hazy conditions would persist, predominantly in the South, but also possibly in the Center, the forecast said.
By Wednesday, the IMS predicted scattered showers in the North and Center, gradually weakening throughout the day. Light snow was expected to continue falling on Mount Hermon, with unseasonable cold temperatures continuing around Israel.
Both Thursday and Friday would likely feature partly cloudy skies with a rise in temperatures to seasonal norms, the forecast added.