February 2016: One of hottest on record in Israel

Showers and high winds are expected to break the late winter heat.

PEOPLE CYCLE through Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv over the weekend. (photo credit: MICHELLE MALKA GROSSMAN)
PEOPLE CYCLE through Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv over the weekend.
March has only just begun, but temperatures in some places were already surpassing those of last month, which was one of the hottest Februaries on record.
On Wednesday, the high temperatures in many cities rose by about one degree compared to the previous day, though in a surprise twist, the temperatures in Eilat went down to 32º from 33º yesterday. The Dead Sea area proved to be the hottest place in the country, with a daytime high of 34º. In Beersheba, which had a February high of 30º, Wednesday saw its temperatures rise to 31º.
Despite the heat, skies in many places were hazy, and high winds that picked up in the afternoon caused the Israel Meteorological Service to issue a highwind warning for mountainous areas in the North and Center, including Jerusalem, Haifa, Nazareth and Safed.
The reason behind this is a warm depression (low-pressure system) coming from Egypt and known locally as a sharav. According to IMS climate department head Dr. Amos Porat, it has brought warm, dry and hazy desert air, but as it passes through the country it is expected to cause temperatures to drop. Isolated showers might begin Wednesday night and continue into the daytime on Thursday, which is expected to have thunderstorms as well.
Individuals with respiratory problems are advised to stay indoors as much as possible on Thursday, as the expected heat will be accompanied by haze, according to the Israel Society of Pulmonology.
Dr. Amnon Ariel, its chairman, said that dust and other particulate matter can irritate the upper airways and even the bronchi. Avoid being outdoors or carrying out intense physical activity if you are sensitive. It is recommended, said Ariel, to be in rooms where air is filtered and to use bronchodilators if symptoms appear.
According to the IMS’s February Weather Report, released late on Tuesday, the past month was one of the hottest Februaries on record. It was hotter than the record-breaking February of 1941. In comparison to the other two hot Februaries of 1955 and 2010, this year’s was as hot or hotter in certain places. Nighttime temperatures, though slightly above average, were not record-breaking, however.
Rainfall in the North was below average, while rainfall in the South was above average. In the North, rainfall amounted to only 65 percent to 80% of the average for the same time of year. At some weather stations in the South, such as in communities near the Gaza Strip, the lower Jordan Valley and around the Dead Sea, rainfall surpassed the average for the entire winter season by 110-140%.
Judy Siegel contributed to this report.