Cyprus runs risk of desertification: geophysicist

NICOSIA (Reuters) - Cyprus runs the risk of desertification by the end of this century as it feels the brunt of climate change and drought, an expert warned Friday.

A dried-up Kourris reservoir is seen near Limassol in this July 16, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Pavlos Vryonides/Files

Studies project a rise in summer temperatures on the east Mediterranean island of between two and four degrees this century, compared to the 1960 to 1990 reference periods, Professor Manfred Lange, a geophysicist, said in an interview.

“I think that there is a very definite potential for dramatically increasing desertification,” said Lange, director of the Energy, Environment and Water Research Center at the non-profit Cyprus Institute.

By the end of this century, Cyprus can expect an extra two months of days with temperatures exceeding 35 degrees centigrade (95 Fahrenheit) on top of the present summer months of June, July and August, Lange said.

There is also likely to be less rainfall and increased evaporation because of higher temperatures.

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“Cyprus will in fact become more like Abu Dhabi or other states that we know because there is just not enough water,” he said.

Cyprus now uses energy-intensive desalination to meet some of its water requirements, while its population of around one million live with rationing and a permanent hosepipe ban. Lange said enforcement must be stringent.

“People want water but if you want to avert desertification, we need to let nature have its share,” he said, adding that while climate change could be slowed, it could not be reversed.

The Cyprus Institute is examining the use of concentrated solar power to co-generate electricity and potable water through desalination, technology Lange said could be used elsewhere.

“Cyprus could become somewhat of a showcase for this kind of technology and could develop an industry that would indeed then offer to market these devices to neighboring countries,” he said.

Editing by Michele Kambas and Philippa Fletcher