After Wednesday’s sweltering heat subsided, the country enjoyed significantly cooler temperatures on Thursday but endured heavy dust for much of the day.A hazy Thursday followed a daylong heat wave in which temperatures rose to 44° Celsius in some areas of the country, igniting fires that damaged several homes and infrastructural facilities. While temperatures fell dramatically on Thursday, reaching only high 20s° or low 30s° in most places, dust that accumulated prompted air pollution warnings around the country.“The haze and the dust are rather common after a heat wave is broken,” said Dr. Amos Porat, head of the Israel Meteorological Service Climate Department. “The warm system from North Africa and the southerly winds carry dust from the desert to our area.”In most of the country, dust concentrations peaked between morning and early afternoon.Beginning on Thursday morning, the Environmental Protection Ministry warned that there would be very high air pollution levels, particularly in the Negev, the Judea region of the West Bank and Jerusalem. As a result of the pollution, the ministry warned that sensitive populations, including those suffering from heart or lung conditions, as well as the elderly, children and pregnant women, avoid strenuous physical activities.In Jerusalem, concentrations of PM 10 – particles with a diameter of 10 microns or less – peaked at 7 a.m., at 462.4 micrograms per cubic meter, about eight times more than values on a typical day, according to Environmental Protection Ministry data. The ministry defines typical values for PM10 as about 60 micrograms per cubic meter.Arad featured even higher peak levels, 646.9 micrograms per cubic meter at 10 a.m., about 11 times more than typical values. PM 10 concentrations in Givatayim and Tel Aviv rose to their highest at noon on Thursday, to 398.7 and 267.9 micrograms per cubic meter, respectively, about seven and four times typical values. In Rehovot, dust levels peaked at 1 p.m., reaching 312.1 micrograms per cubic meter, five time typical values.Beersheba’s PM 10 concentration actually peaked Wednesday at 9 p.m., rising to 366.8 micrograms per cubic meter, six times typical daily values. Ashdod and Modi’in also experienced pollution peaks at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, with 357.1 and 244.6 micrograms per cubic meter, respectively.By mid-afternoon, the pollution levels began to subside and the ministry lifted the warning.On Friday, the IMS forecasted an additional drop in temperatures to slightly lower than seasonal averages, with a chance of light rain, primarily in the North. The day after, temperatures will likely remain similar, with possible local rain in the North and the Center, the IMS said.