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Tigris and Euphrates Climate Change and Drought

Page history last edited by nixonbl@dukes.jmu.edu 12 years, 2 months ago


Climate Change And Droughts


     Along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, the threat of drought is a major and frequent concern. The rain water that feeds the Tigris comes from the North Atlantic Oscillation, which affects the climate from Iceland to Morocco. One study estimates that eighty-eight percent of the water in the Euphrates River comes from precipitation falling in Turkey (Cullen). While there is a wet and dry season, the number of droughts seen in the past forty years has been abnormally high. A study by Fredrick Semazzi and Baris Onol shows that there will likely be a large decrease in rainfall over the southeastern Turkey region as well as a shift in rainfall patterns over Syria and Iraq in the next twenty-five to fifty years.  This change in weather patterns would result in an increase in precipitation during the fall months and a decrease in precipitation for much of the winter season. It can also be explained in part by the effects global climate change will have on the North Atlantic Oscillation. This will affect water availability and water dependent industries in the regions such as agriculture and fishing. Also, it will likely complicate any agreements made in the near future between the three counties as their rainfall patterns change.

     A model from Semazzi and Onol in the Journal on Climate shows that Turkey’s average temperature will increase by six degrees Celsius in the summer, and around three degrees in winter over the next sixty to ninety years as seen in Figure 4. The temperature rise will also extend the length of the summer season into the fall. A longer summer season will put more pressure on water demands, and there will also be higher evaporation as temperatures rise.


Figure 4: The map above shows the predicted climatic change in temperature change in degrees Celsius of the Asia Minor region over the four seasons based on IPCC predictions.  The darker reds indicate areas that have experienced a larger change in temperature while the light orange indicates less change.  Turkey is circled in order to draw attention to the region pertaining to this study.


     Between 2007 and 2010 Iraq and Turkey suffered an intense drought that devastated their agricultural production.  Main crops exported from Iraq such as date, rice, and other grains, could no longer be grown because the Euphrates River was running so low below capacity.  Fishing also suffered and the marshes in Iraq were put at risk, harming the ecosystem.  During this period of drought, water table levels dropped in the region and over-usage of water is preventing those levels from recovering.  In Turkey, sinkholes began appearing in the Konya Plains region due to the fact that the groundwater was being depleted at a rate higher than it was being replenished.  To add to the problem, the reservoirs near the Turkish capital had fallen to about three percent capacity.  The Head of the Chamber of Geological Engineers, Nalbantcilar, predicts that if this lack of water replenishment continues in the same pattern, the Konya Plain will be a desert within thirty years because the water table is drying up so fast. Entire rivers and lakes have disappeared due to the droughts of the past forty years (Birch).


     In arid regions like Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, droughts are becoming much more common and poor water policies are leading them to waste what little water remaining, through poor irrigation practices and avoidable loss through evaporation. This only serves to exacerbate the political disagreements between these three nations, as they struggle to share limited water resources.





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