Middle East: Water deficits persist, esp Syria, Iraq west of Euphrates, & SW Yemen
October 25, 2016
The Big Picture
Severe to exceptional deficits are forecast for much of Syria, Jordan, Iraq along the Euphrates River and west, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates, as the 12-month map (below) illustrates. Deficits are also forecast for many other parts of the Middle East.
A dust storm attributed to drought in Iran and Iraq forced the closure of government offices, universities, and schools in Ahwaz, Khuzestan Province in western Iran, on October 1. Dust storms have become common in Khuzestan Province over the last several years, as well as in Ilam, Luristan, and Kermanshah Provinces.
Much attention has been drawn to Iran's Lake Urmia (Orumiyeh), which has lost 90 percent of its surface area since the 1970s. Some cite it as a source of dust storms which could put the health of 14 million people at risk. A social media campaign - "I am Lake Urmia" - has been launched with celebrity endorsements to urge the UN to find ways to revive the lake.
The US Department of Agriculture's Global Information Network has reduced its forecast for Turkey's 2016/2017 wheat production due to drought in Central Anatolia. Estimates for the current season are now 17.25 million tonnes, down from 19.5 million tonnes in 2015/2016.
The overall progression of water anomalies forecast through June 2017 – shown in the 3-month composites below – indicates that widespread water deficits will persist throughout the Middle East, but the severity of deficits will diminish considerably through March before becoming more severe again April through June, particularly on the Arabian Peninsula.
As the October through December map illustrates exceptional deficits remain in the forecast for southwestern Yemen. Though exceptional deficits are no longer in the forecast for Turkey, an increase in the extent of moderate to severe deficits is forecast, emerging farther north and east. Similarly, in Iran though the severity of deficits will diminish, moderate deficits are forecast to emerge in the northwest near Turkey, and some areas of former surplus are forecast to transition as deficits emerge. Primarily severe deficits are forecast for Syria and for Iraq from the Euphrates west. Moderate deficits are forecast for much of the rest of the Middle East during this period.
From January through March deficits are expected to diminish in severity and extent throughout the Middle East, though abnormal to moderate deficits are still expected. Deficits may be more severe in western Georgia and near Istanbul.
After March deficits are forecast to re-emerge with greater severity across the Middle East, particularly on the Arabian Peninsula.
(It should be noted that forecast skill declines with longer lead times.)
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