The Maltese climate will become more arid in the future, with a potentially devastating impact on ecosystems and human health, according to initial studies carried out by a scientist specialised in the use of regional climate models. 

Based on the understanding of climates in nearby regions, Malta might become like the Middle East, according to James Ciarlo, a post-doctoral fellow with the National Institute of Oceanography and Applied Geophysics, in collaboration with the Earth System Physics section of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy.

Dr Ciarlo currently works on a coordinated regional climate downscaling experiment. The latter produces climate simulations of various regions in the world. 

Malta and Europe suffered record hot temperatures in June, and according to Dr Ciarlo, this was “definitely” a consequence of man-made climate change.

“It is well established now in the scientific community that the first effect of climate change is the increase in frequency and intensity of temperature-related extremes,” he said. 

“With longer and more intense periods of heat, I expect an increasingly negative impact on agriculture, the natural ecosystem – already threatened by continuous development – and probably human health.”

Research shows bouts of rain are becoming less frequent but more intense. So, it is likely Malta will see longer periods of drought followed by storms that not only cause serious damage to the infrastructure and endanger the population, but would harm the already weakened crops, the scientist said.

I expect an increasingly negative impact on agriculture, human health

Malta witnessed its worst storm in decades last FebruaryTimes of Malta reported this had resulted in insurance claims of more than €8.6 million.

“It was one of those extreme events set to become more frequent in the future,” said Dr Ciarlo. These occurrences disrupt the country, cause damage and possibly fatalities, he added. Last year, Malta recorded the stormiest year on record.

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Meanwhile, another heat spell is expected to hit the island over the coming weeks, a Meteorological Office forecaster said. 

Temperatures are expected to climb to about 34˚C on Tuesday, a month after the island witnessed a heatwave close to 40˚C. 

Sahara winds in June sparked the hottest-ever June for Europe with record temperatures up to 45.5˚C recorded in France. 

In Malta June was the hottest in 96 years.