After-Effects of Intense Heat Wave: Agricultural Losses and Record Electricity Usage

“The skies above your head shall be copper and the earth under you iron.” Deuteronomy 28:23 (The Israel Bible™)

Israel is still reeling from a six-day heatwave that scorched the country with temperatures reaching 104 degrees Fahrenheit in most parts of the country. The Israel Meteorological Service (IMS) noted on May 25, 2020, that although absolute temperature records were not broken, the hot weather was record-breaking for its intensity and length.

Referred to as a Sharav, the heatwave was caused by a shift in the wind which normally comes in from the Meditteranean in the west. Coming from the deserts in the east, the wind was exceptionally hot and dry. Though this phenomenon is not uncommon at this time of year, this Sharav was unusually long and intense.  The hot-spell ended on Sunday as unseasonal rains drenched the country. Flood warnings were issued to communities in the Jordan Valley and the Judean Desert.

Water consumption increased by 32% above average hitting 6.1 million cubic meters of water on Tuesday. The all-time record for Israeli electric power usage was broken on Wednesday at noon, as Israelis used 13,854 megawatts of electricity. The Kinneret, full or the first time in decades, began to go down, dropping half a centimeter due to increased usage and evaporation. Several wildfires broke out.

KANAT Insurance Fund for Natural Risks in Agriculture reported initial assessments predicting damage of over $8.5 million but it is still too early to determine the extent of the final damage to crops. Most of the damage is due to heat damage affecting fruits and vegetables, which will lead to a significant decrease in the volume of future crop yield, including tomatoes, peppers, citrus fruits, avocados, and watermelons. The damage is expected to lead to a 30% increase in prices for cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, and possibly watermelons. The report also said that the heat has already caused a shortage of nectarines and the price of apricots and loquats has risen. On the other hand, peaches and cherries are now cheaper because the heat caused them to ripen faster.

Consistent with Israel’s character of extremes, temperatures dropped to below average after the Sharav ended.