Climate change is posing serious threats to the natural resources and infrastructure in the Sultanate of Oman, costing the country billions worth of damage in different tropical storms.
The threats have increased in recent years, evidenced by changes in the number, duration, and intensity of tropical cyclones, which are active from May to July and October to November.
On-shore southwesterly monsoon currents occur from June to September and bring humid conditions to much of Oman accompanied by frequent drizzle, fog, mist, and rain during the khareef season in Dhofar coast and bordering mountain areas.
Occasionally, the monsoon currents penetrate further inland to produce powerful convective storms. The monsoon season in the Dhofar Governorate brings about 100–400 mm of rainfall.
Cyclones formed in the Arabian Sea account for one per cent of all hurricanes in the world’s oceans but do account for very high losses and damages.
From 2007 to 2021, Oman witnessed different adverse weather conditions with a continuous increase in intensity and impact on the land. The country experienced 22 extreme weather events during the period, six of them cyclones.
Al Batinah North is considered the most exposed of the coastal governorates to tropical storms. Muscat, Sur, and Salalah are no exemptions.
“Tropical cyclones are not uncommon over the Arabian Sea. However, many of these storms rarely reach the coastal areas of Sultanate of Oman with tropical cyclone intensity, and from historical data, they very rarely enter the Sea of Oman. Gonu was the first destructive tropical cyclone to affect Muscat after the 1890 cyclone,” reveals the Tropical Cyclone Research and Review.
Since then, the governorates of South Al Sharqiyah, Al Wusta, and Dhofar have been on the frontline in the battle against the low-pressure systems, the cyclone Gonu and even the recent Cyclone Shaheen have shown that the northern parts of the country are not spared from extreme weather conditions.
In “Scientific Insights”, Dr Ahmed Hadidi, an assistant professor at the Department of Applied Geosciences at GUTech, said: “Oman’s location between the Tropic of Cancer and the Equator makes it vulnerable to cyclones developing in the ocean, and climate change does not play a major role in this phenomenon,” he revealed.
In the newsletter, which is published periodically by the Ministry of Higher Education, Research, and Innovation, Dr Hadidi, said that climate change may increase the frequency and intensity of these events.
In its Second National Communication submitted to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Oman revealed that Climate change is projected to lead to changes in the physical and chemical properties of the western Arabian Sea.
"Such changes are expected to pose important threats to the future sustainability of the annual catch of sardines and yellowfin tuna, two species that are central to the commercial fishing industry of Oman", it said.
Climate change poses enormous risks to the future sustainability of Oman’s agricultural sector.
As agricultural productivity depends entirely on groundwater, rising sea levels will lead to seawater intrusion into aquifers, thereby degrading the quality of water extracted for irrigation. Sea level rise also implies a steady decline in cropland available for cultivation as cultivatable land becomes inundated.
Among other measures, effective adaptation should focus on raising public awareness of the detrimental effects of climate change on human health, expanding knowledge of the science of climate change and its effects on human health, and developing preparedness and response strategies at the institutional level.
Over the period from 2015 to 2019, Oman developed a national strategy for adaptation and mitigation of climate change during 2020-2040 to accelerate climate action’s pace and scale. The strategic context for adaptation is rooted in Oman's ineluctable exposure to intensifying tropical cyclones, increasing temperatures, and rising sea levels.
The Omani leadership continues protecting its vulnerable cities from the devastating impacts of tropical cyclones and flash flooding and takes several adaptation measures.
They include continuous improvement of the storm drainage network infrastructure through the construction of large dams, elaboration of a comprehensive National Spatial Strategy 2020-2040 to anticipate the impact of climate change on urban areas and infrastructures, and incorporation of adaptation and mitigation measures into new developments where necessary while ensuring future flexibility and responding to climate change.