As children took part in water fights as per Israeli custom on Shavuot, high temperatures around the country provided additional incentive to unleash super-soaker guns and water balloons on Wednesday.
While not necessarily record-breaking, temperatures reached rare heights for June, Israel Meteorological Service forecasters told The Jerusalem Post. Temperatures climbed into the 40-degrees Celsius in many places, reaching peak heights between 5 and 6 p.m., the forecasters said.
The hot and dry weather – known in Hebrew as “sharav” – was caused by a warm depression that moved to the region from northwest Africa, Dr. Amos Porat, director of the IMS Climate Department, told the Post. Such sharav depressions move eastward along the North African coast, and upon reaching Egypt, bring a southeasterly to a southwesterly air flow to Israel, he explained.
As opposed to the cooler air that Israel usually receives from the Mediterranean Sea, the warm and dry air comes to the area from the desert, Porat said. The enhancement of sharav episodes in the spring is due to the large difference between cool Mediterranean Sea temperatures and the warm weather of the African continent, he added.
In Eilat and the Nahal Besor southern Mediterranean coastal region, temperatures reached about 42 degrees, the IMS said. Haifa and Beersheba residents faced temperatures of about 41 degrees, while Tel Aviv was slightly more bearable at 38 degrees. Temperatures in Jerusalem climbed only to about 34.5 degrees, while those on the Golan Heights reached about 40 degrees, the IMS said.
One weather station – at Negba in the northern Negev – set a record for June at 42.2 degrees.
Sharav depressions occur most frequently between March and May, Porat explained. When they do occur in June, however, the episodes are very “heavy” due to the fact that the desert is extremely warm, he said.
On Thursday, Israelis will enjoy a reprieve from the fierce temperatures but will likely face significant haze.
Temperatures will drop between 5 and 10 degrees, with dust and heavy winds beginning in the morning, IMS forecasters predicted.