Dust episodes in Cyprus have been increasing at a steady pace over the last twelve years, according to data recorded by the Labor Inspection Department, while forecasting models leave no room for optimism for the future. Climate change will worsen the situation, even in countries on the European continent, especially in the south, as it is gradually causing the desertification of larger and larger areas – after all, the problem that we experience over time and escalating in Cyprus starts from deserts. The maps created and published in the Special Report of the European Court of Auditors, entitled “Combating desertification in the EU: a growing threat that needs further action” show how much more desertification-prone areas have grown. For Cyprus the situation is described as dramatic.
In twelve years
From 2010, until 2022, according to the measurements of the Department of Labor Inspection, fluctuations are observed during the dust episodes in the atmosphere of Cyprus, however there seems to be an increasing trend. The highlight is the year we are going through, during which, to date, episodes of a total duration of seventeen days have been recorded.
Of particular importance are the numbers that show the highest daily concentrations of suspended particles in the atmosphere, as recorded by the stations of Agia Marina Xyliatou and Nicosia. According to the table below, the highest total price was recorded in 2015, a year in which there were six days with dust episodes, while the second highest price was recorded in 2022, until May 4.
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Above the limit
Experts point out that the particulate matter that pollutes the air is not just airborne dust from our neighboring deserts. A significant percentage of the particles are also those caused by human activity.
The table prepared by the Department of Labor Inspection, records the data, based on which it is clear that daily exceedances of the permissible limit are frequent. The data have been collected by the Nicosia Traffic Station and relate to the period 2010-2020. Most daily exceedances were recorded in 2010 and the fewest in 2019. It seems that the biggest problem is the cross-border transport of dust (deserts and sea salt), while twice the red line of the safety limit has been approached due to human activity. >
The third table shows the number of announcements about the existence of dust in the atmosphere of Cyprus, from 2013, until 2022. During the current year, to date, twelve announcements have been issued, while the highest number was forty, in 2018, after a four-year upward trend.
Dr. Chrysanthos Savvidis, Head of Air Quality and Strategic Planning at the Labor Inspection Department, explains to politis.com.cy that the composition of airborne dust does not change during the “journey” to Cyprus. In particular, he says that powder consists mainly of inert components , some metals such as aluminum, titanium and iron, as well as some inorganic compounds, such as calcium. From the chemical analyzes that are carried out, there does not seem to be a significant enrichment of the composition of the powder from its source until it reaches Cyprus, with the result that its composition does not change.
Therefore, he emphasizes, the danger of dust is mainly due to its size rather than its composition . The particles are usually dangerous because they enter the human body through the respiratory tract and lead to the lungs, where they settle and cause damage to sensitive tissues, which are involved in air exchange.
Scary predictions strong>
Harris Kordatos, Head of Climate Change Department & amp; Environment at the Cyprus Energy Office, attributes the intensity of the dust transfer phenomenon in Cyprus to Climate Change and without immediate political action these phenomena are expected to increase in intensity and frequency. Speaking to politis.com.cy, he explains that these phenomena occur in areas that are arid, and/or with minimal rainfall and low vegetation such as North Africa. In the coming years, according to various forecast models, the rainfall will decrease even more, while the temperature will increase further, both in Cyprus and in Europe.
This implies desertification of more areas, with the island we are already facing a big problem, points out Mr. Kordatos. However, desertification also threatens neighboring areas of the European continent, which are at a distance that will favor the transport of dust to.
Another factor is fires, which intensify with Climate Change and are aided by drought and rising temperatures. In turn, they contribute to the activation of the phenomenon of desertification, ie the degradation of fertility and soil resilience with catastrophic consequences for society, food production and biodiversity of our place.
In 2008 < The European Environment Agency (EEA) has conducted a study on desertification in southern, central and eastern Europe, covering 1.68 million square kilometers. In 2017, a monitoring study was conducted based on the same methodology. The study found that areas with a high or very high sensitivity to desertification increased, in less than a decade, by 177,000 square kilometers – an area that roughly corresponds to the combined area of Greece and of Slovakia.
Cyprus, which is not included in the scope of the above study, is particularly severely affected, as , according to studies, 99% of the country is vulnerable to desertification.
Temperatures will rise by up to 2 degrees in the period 2031-2060
Haris Kordatos, regarding Cyprus and if no substantial actions are taken to reduce greenhouse gases, emphasizes that it is predicted that for the period 2031-2060 the temperature in Cyprus will increase up to 2 degrees Celsius , while for the period 2071-2100 , the increase will reach up to 4 degrees Celsius . The weather conditions in Cyprus will be similar to those prevailing in our neighboring countries, such as Egypt, with life becoming very difficult. In fact, most areas in Cyprus are in the critical zone of desertification, except for the mountainous areas of Troodos which are characterized as sensitive.
Need for adaptation
Based on of the above and, given that the situation for dealing with natural dust episodes is no longer in our hands, Haris Kordatos talks about how Cyprus can adapt to these new data. A simple process is the planting of trees and the use of green spaces. However, despite the fact that municipalities and communities have green spaces, many of them are neglected or abandoned, although this problem has begun to alleviate as local authorities have begun to take care of these spaces.
< In addition to planting, emphasis should be placed on measures to address local desertification such as the rational use of water resources and the utilization of rainwater in homes, sustainable agricultural practices (organic farming, crop rotation), the promotion/restoration of dry stone use and the solution based on Nature.