KUWAIT/BAGHDAD: Residents of Baghdad rushed to have snowball fights or take photographs yesterday as the Iraqi capital woke carpeted in white by only its second snowfall in a century. In neighboring Kuwait, the temperature is expected to drop below zero degrees Celsius tonight as a cold wave continues to sweep through the country. The weather forecast for today predicts the maximum temperature to reach only 12 degrees, while the mercury could drop as low as -1 degrees.
“[The weather is] very cold with light to moderate northwesterly wind with a speed of 12-40 km/h. Some scattered clouds will appear with a chance of frost in agricultural and desert areas,” the Kuwait Meteorological Department forecast yesterday. The same weather conditions are projected for today, while temperatures are set to gradually increase to a maximum of 17 degrees Celsius and minimum of 4 degrees tomorrow, then continuing to increase through the weekend.
The last recorded snowfall in Baghdad was in 2008, but it was a quick and mostly slushy affair – and prior to that, it had been a century since Baghdad saw any flakes. Iraqis young and old said it was the first time they had ever seen snow falling in Baghdad. The city’s iconic palm trees were daintily outlined in white, and the tarpaulins of the long-running anti-government protest camp in Tahrir Square in the city center were sprinkled with snow.
People on their way to work stopped their cars to snap pictures or break out into impromptu snowball fights. “Snowfall may continue until Wednesday given the very cold weather,” said Amer Al-Jaberi, media head of the Iraqi Meteorological Centre. “This cold wave came from Europe,” he told AFP.
The people of Baghdad are more used to heat than cold. The highest temperature recorded in the capital was a searing 51 degrees Celsius, a record it has neared several times in recent years. South of the capital, snow also carpeted the Shiite holy city of Karbala, which draws pilgrims from round the world to its famed shrines, the golden-domed mausoleums of Abbas and Imam Hussein. Snowfall is more common in northern Iraq, where snow covered the war-battered city of Mosul, but in the center and south there is rarely enough precipitation.
Iraq has been hit by a succession of extreme weather events in recent years. In 2018, chronic water shortages sparked a health crisis in the center and south but the following year, heavy rains caused deadly flooding and heavy damage to homes and crops. Blistering temperatures then hit the north triggering wild fires and scorching crops. Experts say Iraq lacks the funding or infrastructure to cope with climate change and the desertification of once productive land. – Agencies