By Steff Gaulter
Welcome back to Doha! The roads are very full again, so I can only assume that most of you were away for the summer, but have now returned. Don’t take this the wrong way, but it was quite nice having the roads to myself for the last few months!
It was much quicker to get to work and I didn’t have to worry about booking tables in restaurants. Of course, the downside was the weather and I bet most of you are very glad you missed that.
August was certainly a hot and humid month, but it wasn’t quite as humid as some previous years.
This year the humidity topped 80% on just six occasions; in 2010, it happened 22 times. In 2010, when driving in the evening or at night, it was fairly common to have to drive with your windscreen wipers on because the moisture in the air would readily condense onto your car. This year, I didn’t have to use my windscreen wipers once, other than to remove the dust from my windscreen of course!
Now August is over, we can all breathe a sigh of relief. The most difficult month is now behind us, and things are all downhill until the cool winter weather. Of course, the oppressive temperatures haven’t eased just yet. The worst of the heat and humidity lasts from mid-July to mid-September, so we still have a week or so before things start to improve. The bad news is that it’s not a sudden improvement; whereas the humidity appears suddenly earlier in the summer, the humidity doesn’t disappear abruptly in September.
Gradually, however, during the coming weeks and months you should become aware that the weather isn’t quite as harsh as it was. The temperature will become less stifling and the winds will change as well. This is important as the direction that the wind comes from dictates the level of humidity in Doha.
If the wind comes from the east, then the air is being drawn in from over the sea, so the humidity is high. However, if the air comes from the northwest, this is air that is very dry and this causes our humidity to drop.
Over the last few weeks, the winds have been almost exclusively easterly. This has dragged in plenty of humid air, but over the coming weeks, the winds should become a little more variable. The prevailing wind direction in Qatar is from the northwest, and we should see this northwesterly wind become more common as September and October progress.
As the winds return to their default direction and the heat subsides, the weather will also start to become rather more varied. If you are new to Doha, you might be surprised to hear that we do have days when the weather in Qatar isn’t wall to wall sunshine, in fact you may well be surprised how cool it can become in the winter.
One of the most common types of weather, other than sunshine, is the dust storm. This is hardly surprising given how dry the ground is. The lack of moisture ensures there are usually plenty of particles which the wind can pick up and throw around.
As well as bringing dust, our northwesterly wind can bring a few intense rainstorms as well. At this time of year, it can seem unlikely that it ever rains in Doha, but the downpours can be surprisingly heavy.
The ground is continuously being baked hard by the sun, so it cannot absorb the vast quantity of water which falls from the sky during these rainstorms. Huge puddles often form, which can stick around for several days.
Qatar’s rain is usually brought in by towering thunderstorm clouds. They originate in the Mediterranean, heading east into Turkey, Syria and Lebanon, but then they have a choice. It’s like a weather crossroads; the systems can move east into northern Iran and the Caspian Sea, or southeast, through Iraq and towards us here in Qatar.
The thunderstorms here in Doha usually bring plenty of thunder and lightning, and quite often, some hail as well. It might sound quite strange that somewhere as hot as Doha sees lumps of ice falling out of the sky, but it’s actually because Qatar is so hot that, when it rains, we have a greater chance of seeing some hail. The air near the ground is so dry, that rain will often evaporate before it hits the earth. However, hail melts relatively slowly, therefore if rain makes it to the surface, there’s a good chance that hail will too.
The thunderstorms are unlikely to reach us in September, instead they are more likely to reach us in October or November, but you know what they say: “Never say never”! In 2012, a huge thunderstorm did roll across Doha at the end of September, so there is a slight chance of rain this month. Whether or not it does rain in September, at least it’s now plain sailing until the beautiful weather of winter.