Why Egypt feels hotter than official temperatures

Marina Barsoum , Monday 10 Aug 2015

People are doing all they can to survive temperatures that have peaked at 46 Celsius

A ship crosses the Gulf of Suez towards the Red Sea as holiday-makers swim in Suez, 127 kilometers (79 miles) east of Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015. (Photo:AP)

For a week Egyptians have suffered an exceptionally severe heat wave that has hit all governorates across the nation, killing 23 since Sunday, according to the health ministry.

Weather forecasts and reports indicate heightened temperatures, but the actual figures are even higher.

During August, the average temperature in Cairo is 36 degrees. However, according to the official weather agency, August 2015 has witnessed temperatures up to 40 degrees. 

Yet temperatures forecasted by the Egyptian Meteorological Authority (EMA) are not close to the heat wave that Egyptians have been suffering from during the past week, leaving many wondering why their cars display temperatures reaching up to 50 degrees Celsius. 

The spokesperson for the state official weather agency, Wahid Seoudi, told Ahram Online that the difference that Egyptians feel is due to the measurement methods used by EMA, which are internationally recognised.

In 1992, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) defined air temperature as “the temperature indicated by a thermometer exposed to the air in a place sheltered from direct solar radiation." 

"Temperatures by EMA are measured inside a wooden booth placed on an altitude of a 1.5m in agriculture land," says Seoudi.

The spokesperson highlighted that the booth is placed in an area sheltered from direct solar radiation.

"We usually expect an additional 5 to 10 degrees Celsius of the forecasted temperatures in the sun," explained Seoudi.

He added that the weather agency forecasts that the heat wave will persist throughout the country for at least the upcoming week.

According to the WMO, temperatures are measured, for meteorological purposes, using a number of materials. The most common variable measured is air temperature, at different heights. Other variables are ground, soil, grass, and seawater temperature.

The ministry of health has called on Egyptians, especially the elderly and children, to avoid going out in the sun. People should wear hats and make sure they drink plenty of water or juice throughout the day to stay hydrated, the ministry said on its official website.

If any person suffers from vomiting, headaches or dehydration, especially among the elderly and children, they should immediately head to the nearest doctor, the statement added.

Over the past days, at least 23 died as a result of the heat wave. Two of the victims were reported on Monday in Cairo: a 45-year old woman and a 51-year-old man who succumbed to intensive sunstroke.

The electricity ministry has urged against excessive use of electrical appliances like washing machines and vacuum cleaners, as well as air conditioning units, to avoid too much pressure on the electricity grid and subsequent power cuts.

Power cuts have notably decreased in Cairo but are still commonly reported in other governorates.

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