Bandar Mahshahr sits adjacent to the Persian Gulf in southwest Iran where water temperatures are in the 90s. Such high temperatures lead to some of the most oppressive humidity levels in the world when winds blow off the sweltry water.
Location of Bandar Mahshahr, Iran portrayed by red marker. (Google map)
Although there are no official records, 178 degrees (81 Celsius) is the highest known heat index ever attained. It was observed in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia on July 8, 2003. In his book Extreme Weather, weather historian Christopher Burt says Dhahran, also on the Persian Gulf, registered an air temperature of 108 degrees (42 Celsius) and a dew point of 95 (35 Celsius), which computes to such an extreme heat index level.
This week’s extreme heat index values have occurred as a punishing heat wave has engulfed the Middle East.
On Thursday, Baghdad soared to 122 degrees (50C) – though its dew point was a lowly 44 (7 Celsius) given its desert environs. That combination produced a heat index of 115 – the dry air taking a slight edge off the blistering temperatures.
A massive high pressure ridge or “heat dome” responsible for the excessive heat doesn’t look to budge for several days, at least.
The extreme heat over such a long duration is particularly taxing in this war-ravaged region, as Weather.com explains:
The government has urged residents to stay out of the sun and drink plenty of water, but for many of the more than 3 million Iraqis displaced by violent conflict, that poses a dilemma.
Chronic electricity and water cuts in Iraq and other conflict-ridden countries make heat waves like the present one even more unbearable – particularly for the more than 14 million people displaced by violence across the region. In the southern Iraqi city of Basrah earlier this month, protesters clashed with police as they demonstrated for better power services, leaving one person dead.
Unlike other countries in the region, Iraq lacks beaches and travel restrictions make it difficult for people to escape the sweltering heat, leaving many – even those fortunate enough to live in their homes – with limited options for cooling off. Some swim in rivers and irrigation canals, while others spend these days in air-conditioned shopping malls.