The Middle East has been sweltering under some of the hottest weather conditions ever seen, driven by an unusual combination of extreme heat and humidity.
The heat index in the Iranian city of Bandar Mahshahr soared into the 160s Friday and torrid temperatures forced the Iraqi government to declare a four-day holiday last week. AccuWeather reports that the actual temperature in Bandar Mahshahr was 115 degrees Friday, although a dew point temperature of 90 degrees pushed the city’s heat index to 163 degrees.
The heat index, also known as the apparent temperature, describes what the temperature feels like to the body when relative humidity is combined with the air temperature. The National Weather Service classifies a heat index of 125 degrees or higher as extremely dangerous, warning that heat stroke is highly likely.
The Middle East’s recent heat wave, or so-called “heat dome” has stunned meteorologists.
"A strong ridge of high pressure has persisted over the Middle East through much of July, resulting in the extreme heat wave in what many would consider one of the hottest places in the world," said AccuWeather Meteorologist Anthony Sagliani, in a statement, noting “incredibly high” levels of humidity.
"As the land heats up around the Persian Gulf, the air rises quickly and rushes inland from the Gulf, creating an onshore wind that pulls humid air sitting over the waters into coastal communities," he added.
AccuWeather noted that water temperatures in the Persian Gulf are running slightly above normal, contributing to the high humidity. “Believe it or not, it is always very humid in these places surrounding the Persian Gulf during the summer, but the nature of the extreme heat wave is causing some of the highest combinations of heat and humidity ever observed,” said Sagliani.
The highest known heat index is 178 degrees, recorded in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, in 2003 according to The Washington Post.
Iraq's Council of Ministers declared a four-day mandatory holiday beginning Thursday amid soaring temperatures. The statement, delivered on state-run Iraqiyya TV, was the second heat advisory issued by the Iraqi government in July.
Baghdad experienced its record high Thursday when temperatures soared to 124 degrees, according to AccuWeather.
High summer temperatures are standard in Iraq, but widespread power and water cuts complicate everyday life when the temperatures soar. Residents are typically advised to limit any outdoor activities for the duration of the heat wave.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.