Technology & Science

Drought hits Israel, Palestinian territories

Israel's meteorological department has declared 2010 the hottest year since it began keeping records.

2010 hottest year on record

Israel's meteorological department has declared 2010 the hottest year since it began keeping records.

And it's been so dry that some Jewish and Muslim leaders are holding joint meetings to pray for rain.

The Israel Meteorological Service's year-end data showed temperatures were between two and 2.5 degrees above the long-term average, and 1.5 degrees above the previous record.

The average 2010 temperature in Jerusalem was 20.3 C, compared with the long-term average of 17.5 C. 

And winter, the traditional rainy season, has seen only 15 per cent of the average annual rainfall. 

The warm, sunny and dry weather has led to a change in the behaviour of some migratory birds, which usually fly to Africa from Europe. Now, they are staying in the region, said Amir Balaban, co-director of the Jerusalem Bird Observatory.

"It says that the habitat is under stress, it's changing rapidly," he said.

The drought has been linked with forest fires, including one that killed 41 people in December. There was a fire in Jerusalem's biggest park on Sunday, an unprecedented occurrence in Balaban's memory.

"I dream of rain," said Efi Cohen, standing by a wheat field near Jerusalem, where the plants are only a quarter of the size they should be. Zucchini are sub-standard, said Cohen, who is in charge of agricultural production.