Israel: fire disaster just a taste?

Waldbrand confirms an old study on the effects of climate change in the Mediterranean

Fire at the city limits of Haifa © Ram Eisenberg / CC by-sa 3.0
Read out

The fire disaster in the Carmel Mountains near Haifa with 42 dead is probably just a taste of the future. This has now been emphasized by an Israeli scientist. The devastating forest fire for the first time dramatically confirms the expected effects of climate change in Israel, which the researcher had predicted ten years ago together with several colleagues in a study.

Climate scenarios for the year 2100 in Israel expect an increase in the average temperature of at least 1.5 degrees Celsius, a decrease in precipitation and an increase in evaporation. Late winter precipitation would increase the risk of forest fires, the researchers around Guy Pe'er warned as early as 2000.

The frequency, intensity and extent of fires would increase as a result of arid soil, increased evaporation and more frequent and intense heat spells, according to the Israel National Report on National Report, which the Ben-Gurion University of Negev was commissioned by Israel Ministry of the Environment.

With a warming of 1.5 degrees, which is now considered a relatively conservative scenario, the researchers expect the desert in the Middle East to extend 300 to 500 kilometers to the north. © André Kuenzelmann / UFZ

Desert continues to grow

With a warming of 1.5 degrees, which is now considered a relatively conservative scenario, the researchers expect the desert in the Middle East to extend 300 to 500 kilometers to the north. The typical Mediterranean ecosystems would disappear from Israel. The forest fires in the Carmel Mountains in northern Israel were preceded by a heat spell with temperatures around 30 degrees Celsius and eight months of drought. However, the average temperature here is only about 20 degrees at this time of year, and the first rains usually fall between September and October.

The Carmel Mountains rise in northern Israel up to 546 meters above the Mediterranean Sea. Due to the relatively high rainfall and low population density thrives there a lush vegetation. Therefore, large parts were declared a national park and put under protection. In 1989, Guy Pe'er, currently working at the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ), saw three forest fires destroy large parts of the Carmel Mountains on the outskirts of his hometown Haifa. display

The Carmel Mountains near Haifa is a popular tourist destination in Israel. View from a hotel complex over the woods towards the Mediterranean Sea. The photo was taken on the morning of November 30, 2010, just before the devastating Great Earth broke out. The hotel fell victim to the flames. Gl Valley Gluzman

42 dead and 5, 000 hectares of destroyed land

I examined the return of the plants for twelve months and accompanied the reintroduction of Mesopotamian fallow deer for 15 months. In the process, I learned that fire is something natural and nature can recover if it is not repeatedly disturbed, "reports Pe'er. The ecologist is shocked, however, by the extent to which the walls have meanwhile taken over. The big fire now devastated a surface ten times larger than the largest fire in 1989.

The worst forest fires in Israel's history have left 42 people dead in the past few days and 250 houses have been destroyed. In total, 5, 000 hectares of land in the Carmel Mountains near Haifa were devastated including the largest pine forest in Israel. The damage is estimated at more than 55 million euros. Since then, there has been much discussion in Israel about the fire department.

Consumer behavior of the people main cause

However, Pe'er sees the main causes not in errors of the fire brigade, but in the consumer behavior of the people, which leads to the further warming of the atmosphere: We must do something about it. It's about our consumption, about our society and our habits. We consume more than we should and risk our own future. Can we behave like responsible people and change our habits?

From the point of view of the Israeli scientist, international politics are called upon to make decisions at the UN climate change conference in Cancun that put a brake on the warming of the atmosphere. Because climate change is not fiction. The Israelis have received an outlook these days, which awaits future generations, the researcher said.

(Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research - UFZ, 09.12.2010 - DLO)