Record Heat, Dust, and Locusts Are Plaguing Kuwait

Record Heat, Dust, and Locusts Are Plaguing Kuwait
The wall of a building is covered with a swarm of desert locusts that were blown to Kuwait City by strong winds, on March 24, 2021. (Photo: Yasser Al-Zayyat, Getty Images)

It’s freaking hot in Kuwait right now. On Thursday, the country recorded a temperature of 44.6 degrees Celsius. That’s the hottest temperature the country — and the entire Arabian Peninsula — has ever seen in the month of March.

The extreme heat reading came from the Mitribah weather station in the northwest part of the country, but it’s not just one corner of Kuwait seeing these wild temperatures. The record-breaking heat came just a week after three nearby countries all broke their March temperature records on a single day. On March 18, it was 42.8 degrees Celsius in Saudi Arabia, 40 degrees Celsius in Bahrain, and 41.5 degrees Celsius in Qatar.

These temperatures would be brutal at any time of year, but they’re particularly jarring because they’re arriving so early. The most scorching days in the Arabian Peninsula don’t usually hit until summer starts in June.

“One can only hope the summer is kind,” meteorologist Scott Duncan wrote on Twitter. “I cannot imagine the level of this incessant heat for months on end.”

As though the record heat isn’t enough, Kuwait is also currently dealing with a storm of dust, which swept into the country on strong winds. These storms can can worsen respiratory ailments and create dangerous conditions on roadways. To make matters even worse, the wind also ushered in swarms of locusts. The insects are a nuisance, and they’re also destroying cropland already under threat because of extreme heat and drought. Not a pretty picture at all.

The Middle East has warmed 50% faster than the global average. Since 1975, Kuwait has seen more than a 1.5 degree Celsius increase in mean temperatures. The heat in the region has created public health crises. In Kuwait, it has been linked with increased risk of death by cardiovascular disease. The searing temperatures are exacerbating severe drought conditions in an area where water sources are already compromised by pollution from oil spills during the Gulf War.

Rising heat is a symptom of the climate crisis, which is exacerbating heat waves around the world. But in the Arabian Peninsula — already one of the hottest places on Earth — it’s a full-blown crisis that’s slated to get worse if the world doesn’t act. Research has shown that extreme heat could make parts of the Middle East all but uninhabitable by midcentury if carbon pollution isn’t reined in.