Weather expert links frozen North to Mideast heat

It is impossible to remain completely oblivious to the fact that the country is experiencing one of its warmest and driest winters ever.

Kinneret 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Kinneret 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Even if one manages to ignore the government-sponsored ads flooding the airwaves alarmingly warning citizens that “Israel is drying up,” it is impossible to remain completely oblivious to the fact that the country is experiencing one of its warmest and driest winters ever.
Lake Kinneret, the country’s largest fresh water reservoir, is at an all-time low, and there’s much consternation among farmers over water rations in the coming summer. Considering that other parts of the world are currently in the grips of their coldest winters in decades, bemused climatologists are trying to find out what might be the source for all the meteorological mayhem.
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Judah Cohen, director of the Atmosphere and Environmental Research firm in the US, thinks he knows who to blame.
Last month, Cohen wrote an op-ed in The New York Times explaining how early snow cover in Siberia kept temperatures in that part of the world below average, creating a ripple effect which made some parts of the northern hemisphere abnormally cold and others freakishly warm and dry.
“The temperature pattern associated with changes in Siberian snow cover is referred to as a quadropole or four distinct regions with departure from normal temperatures: Northern Europe, the Middle East, the Eastern US and Eastern Canada,” Cohen told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
“AER research shows that when Siberian snow cover is above normal in the fall, Northern Europe and the Eastern US have colder winters while Eastern Canada and the Middle East have warmer winters,” he said.
“When the Middle East is warm in winter, it also tends to be dry. This trend has been in place for the past two decades and has been extreme in the past two winters.”
Thus, according to his theory, the unusually wintry weather in the US are directly connected to the successive years of drought in Israel and the Middle East – and it’s all Siberia’s fault.
Cohen, 48, who has been to Israel many times and has a sister who lives here, said there were conflicting theories over the direction which the global climate may take. Acutely aware of both the difficulty of making predictions about the future, to quote Mark Twain, and people’s tendency to blame it on the weatherman, Cohen was nonetheless willing to offer his opinion.
“I think this trend will continue,” he said. “A warmer atmosphere holds more moisture so that when it does get colder there’s less precipitation, but if the earth keeps warming up and the snow in Siberia doesn’t collect, then it could mean that Israel might get wetter.”
Is global warming, then, good for Israel because it might bring more rainfall to the country? Cohen is quick to put the brakes on that theory. Other weather models, Cohen explained, show that global warming would do the opposite and desiccate the region.
“Overall, I don’t think global warming would be good for Israel,” he said. “Some people think the sub-tropical belt which includes Israel might get drier, but those models don’t capture Siberia’s effect.”
Cohen has never visited the tundra and taiga landscapes of Siberia, the alleged cause of the climatic disruptions. The furthest he has reached was Moscow, where he did some work for the government. Does he ever worry about giving the region a bad name? “There’s no such thing as bad publicity,” he responded, “although I do often refer to it as the refrigerator of the northern hemisphere.”