Tag Archives: weather

If Paul needed a weather report in Athens

The Roman Forum is located north of the Acropolis in Athens. If you are walking in the ancient Agora you could wander into the Roman Forum without realizing the difference. The Tower of the Winds in the Roman Forum might have been seen by the Apostle Paul during his stay in Athens (Acts 17:15-34).

The Tower of the Winds was built about 40 B.C. by Andronicus to serve as a sundial, water-clock, and weather-vane. Fant and Reddish describe the structure this way:

… the Tower of the Winds on the east side of the forum, named for the reliefs of the Eight Winds on the frieze about the top of the tower. Originally the tower was a complete ancient weather station, designed by a famous Macedonian astronomer, Andronikos of Kyrrhos. Sundials were mounted on the exterior sides of the building, a water clock operated inside the tower, and the bronze weather vane on top indicated the wind direction over the applicable image of one of the Eight Winds. (A Guide to Biblical Sites in Greece and Turkey, 32)

In the photo below you will see the Tower of the Winds on the right in the Roman Forum. The hill in the distance is known as Mount Lycabetus. It is the highest point in the city of Athens.

Tower of the Wind. Mount Lycabetus in distance. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tower of the Wind in Roman Forum. Mt. Lycabetus in distance. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Here is a larger image of the Tower of the Winds.

Tower of the Winds in the Roman Forum of Athens. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tower of the Winds in the Roman Forum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The khamsin (hamsin) before and after

Yesterday we wrote about the effect of the east wind on Larry’s hike along the Jesus Trail. Here is a brief followup that should be helpful.

Dr. Carl G. Rasmussen, author of Zondervan Atlas of the Bible, also maintains the Holy Land Photos website. He has a series of photos showing the effect of the khamsin (which he spells without the silent k, as hamsin), and the same view with normal visibility. To see these fascinating photos, with additional descriptive info, click here.

Carl now has 3230 photos of 322 biblical sites available on his website. The photos are available for free download in various sizes. Perhaps the most helpful feature to teachers and preachers is that they are available PowerPoint ready. He also discusses “The Transitional Seasons”, with the same beautiful photos, in the Zondervan Atlas of the Bible (rev. ed.) pages 30-31.

Click Zondervan Atlas of the Bible to order this book for $25.20 (free shipping). This is a savings of 37%.

New difficulties on the “Jesus Trail”

We have reported about Larry’s hiking on the “Jesus Trail” from Nazareth to Bethsaida. Larry’s last post was at the end of Day 3. On his trek from Moshav Arbel eastward he encountered a new problem — the strong East winds.

Almost everyone who has visited Israel has learned of the West winds that make their way through the depressions around the Sea of Galilee and create storms on the Sea. Unless you travel in the “transitional season” or in the (dry) summer season you may not have learned about the East wind. This wind is called the sirocco. In Egypt it is known as the khamsin, and in Israel as the sharav.

Denis Baly, The Geography of the Bible (1974 ed., pp. 51-53), explains these winds. He says they occur in the transitional seasons from early April to mid-June (that is now), and from mid-September to the end of October. Baly says,

It is this intense dryness and the fine dust in the air which are so exhausting, for other hot days, though troublesome, do not have the same effect. People with a heart condition, nervous complaints, or sinus trouble are particularly affected, but even the mildest-tempered person is apt to become irritable and to snap at other people for no apparent reason. Tourists find the sirocco especially frustrating, for not only does travel become fatiguing, but the fine yellowish dust which fills the air drains it of all color, blots out all but the immediate vicinity, and makes photography a mockery.

Here is how Larry described his day in an Email to me overnight.

No blog last night because of the storm. I woke to high winds from the east which dusted up the air so badly that photos were mostly useless. Worst part was that it was directly against me and really HOT. Pushing against 20+ mph winds really took the steam out of me. By the end of the day I was utterly exhausted.  Drank my full 3 litres and had good dinners and breakfasts, but energy levels are still very low.

The photo below is one of the aerial shots we made a week ago. It was made while flying over the west shore of the Sea of Galilee, with the view to the west. You can see Mount Arbel and the Wadi Hamam below. The Via Maris runs in this valley which is also called the Valley of the Doves. You will notice two lines of mountains further west.

I am rather sure that this is the route Larry was walking yesterday. Larry has lived in Washington state for many years. I think he is not bothered by the sudden rains, but the intense heat and strong wind from the east may be another matter. I want you to think about the fact that all of the biblical characters from the Patriarchs to Jesus and His disciples encountered conditions similar to these (and worse).

Aerial view of Arbel and the Via Maris. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of Arbel, Wadi Hamam, and the Via Maris. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Baly cites several biblical references to the east and south winds that bring in the hot air and the dust storms. He says, “Where the mountains come close to the sea a strong sirocco pours down the slopes like a flood, at 60 miles an hour or more, stirring the sea into a fury.”

By the east wind you shattered the ships of Tarshish. (Psalm 48:7 ESV)

In the prophecy against Tyre, Ezekiel says,

“Your rowers have brought you out into the high seas. The east wind has wrecked you in the heart of the seas. (Ezekiel 27:26 ESV)

Notice Elihu’s comments to Job about the south wind.

Do you know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of him who is perfect in knowledge,  you whose garments are hot when the earth is still because of the south wind?  (Job 37:16-17 ESV)

Jesus also observed the effect of the south wind:

And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and it happens. (Luke 12:55 ESV)

Do you remember Jonah’s problems after enjoying the shade of his plant?

When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:8 ESV)

Baly calls attention to the effect of the spring siroccos on the crops.

The spring siroccos destroy the winter grass and may damage the crops if they come too soon, and hence they appear constantly in the Bible as a symbol of the impermanence of riches or of human life.

Note these additional references in your own study: Psalm 103:16; Isaiah 40:6-8; Hosea 13:15; Ezekiel 17:10; James 1:11.

When Larry goes back on line I am sure his vivid descriptions of his experience will be well worth reading. Here is the link.

Update: Larry is back in Jerusalem Wednesday evening.

Races called off at Caesarea Maritima hippodrome

Friend Leon Mauldin is traveling in Israel for a few days. He reports “a mixture of wind, rain, and sunshine” today. He shared a nice photo of the hippodrome at Caesarea Maritima flooded. Note the heavy clouds and the water crashing in from the sea.

Caesarea Maritima Hippodrome standing in water. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Caesarea Maritima Hippodrome standing in water. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Our thanks to Leon for sharing this photo with out readers. You may follow the progress of his tour at Leon’s Message Board here.

We know that Israel needs the rain after several years of drought conditions. The archaeological park was closed due to storm damage in mid-December, 2010. See here.

Here is a photo of the same area made during a dry period.

Caesarea Maritima Hippodrome. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Caesarea Maritima Hippodrome Dry. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Herod the Great built a hippodrome along the coast at Caesarea Maritima in 10 B.C. to celebrate the opening of the city. Read more here.

Peter preached to Cornelius at Caesarea (Acts 10,11).

Paul was imprisoned in the city for two years before departing for Rome (Acts 24:27; 27:1).

Caesarea National Park closed due to storm damage

The recent storm in the eastern Mediterranean caused damage to the breakwater at Caesarea and led Israeli authorities to temporarily close the Caesarea National Park. Haaretz reports here.

The head of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Shuka Dorfman, yesterday toured Caesarea National Park to take stock of the damage to the antiquities by last weekend’s storm.

Calling the damage “a national disaster,” Dorfman noted that the breakwater, which was broken in three areas by high waves during the storm, now leaves the antiquities exposed to damage from any future high waves.

Dorfman expressed concern that the storm expected this weekend could further damage the antiquities.

“The damage from the storm is huge all along the coast, from Ashkelon in the south the Acre in the north,” Dorfman said adding that if the situation is not remedied immediately through extensive conservation efforts, erosion of the cliff along the beach would continue until it collapses, leading to “the destruction of many ancient cultural treasures of Israel.”

A year ago I wrote about a stormy day at Caesarea Maritima here. I think you might enjoy the photos there. Here is a new one.

High waves at Caesarea Maritima - 12/12/09 - Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

High waves at Caesarea Maritima - December 12, 2009 - Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Caesarea Maritima was a first century Roman capital and seaport. The gospel was first preached to the Gentiles here when Peter came from Joppa to Caesarea to tell Cornelius words by which he could be saved (Acts 10, 11).

Herod the Great built a city on the site of Strato’s Tower and named it Caesarea in honor of Caesar Augustus. It became a center of Roman provincial government in Judea. The city had a harbor and was located on the main caravan route between Tyre and Egypt. This city is called Caesarea Maritima (on the sea) to distinguish it from Caesarea Philippi.

The Apostle Paul used the harbor at Caesarea several times. He was imprisoned here for two years before departing for Rome (Acts 24:27; 27:1).

Extreme weather in the Middle East

Most parts of the United States have severely cold weather tonight. Even here in Florida we are expecting record cold tonight and tomorrow night. One of the cruise ships was unable to enter the Tampa port today due to strong winds.

All of that reminded me about the extreme weather in the eastern Mediterranean and various parts of the Middle East. The network news showed conditions on the cruise ship that was unable to enter the harbor at Alexandria. The photo below show the breakwater at the entrance to the Alexandria harbor. The flat looking building to the right on the shore is the famous new library of Alexandria.

Breakwater at entrance to Alexandria harbor. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Breakwater at entrance to Alexandria harbor. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

RFIenglish has the following summary:

Twenty-six ships were barred from entering the Suez Canal and 29 vessels delayed for three hours. The waterway was hit by poor visibility and winds of up to 40 knots an hour, said an official at the canal, which is Egypt’s third-largest source of foreign revenue after tourism and remittances from expatriate workers.

Red Sea and Mediterranean ports were closed for a second day on Sunday, while an Italian container ship, Jolly Amaranto, was stranded off the north-western coast after its engines broke down.

Visibility at Cairo airport was reduced to 300 metres.

As a long drought that affected the region came to an end, temperatures plummeted and storms hit Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the Palestinian territories and Israel:

* In Lebanon seaside roads and ports have been closed after a 45-year-old woman was killed by a falling tree hitting her car – the year’s first snowstorm hit the country’s mountains;
* Off Israel a Moldovan freighter went down near the port of Ashdod but its crew of 11 Ukrainians was rescued.
* Syria’s capital Damascus was hit by snowstorms;
* Jordan suffered sandstorms and was braced for heavy rain and snow, which could lead to flooding.

Forecasters expect the bad weather to continue on Monday and have advised people to stay indoors due to a sandstorm that has blanketed the Egyptian capital.

Read also the BBC report here, or the Breitbart coverage which Todd Bolen mentioned here.

The Israel National News reports on snow in the Jerusalem area. Haaretz says the precipitation is a boon to the Sea of Galilee which has been extremely low in recent months.

Flash floods in the Sinai peninsula

Travel in Egypt is sometimes hindered by small amounts of rain. In flat areas such as the delta an inch of rain can flood the area and make automobile travel impossible, or at least impractical. In early March, 2005, Elizabeth and I had remained in Egypt for a few days after the tour group returned home. We planned one day to go to Goshen. That morning when we looked from the hotel window in Heliopolis we observed rain. The guide scheduled to go with us on the excursion arrived, but explained that we would not be able to go due to the 1/2 to 1 inch of rain that had fallen during the night. The annual rainfall in the Cairo area is 1 1/2 to 2 inches. In Upper Egypt years may pass with no rainfall.

Rain in Cairo - March 9, 2005. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Rain in Cairo - March 9, 2005. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Egypt is less prepared for an inch of rain than many southern USA cities are for an inch of snow.

On another excursion we went to Jebel Musa, the traditional Mount Sinai, in the Sinai Peninsula. As we traveled through the Wadi el-Tor (el-Tur or al-Tur) shortly before arriving at Feiran, I noted that there had been a flash flood in the wadi. Our guide explained that this typically happened at least once each winter. He said that the asphalt paved road could be washed out by less than an inch of rain.

Wadi el Tor in the Sinai Peninsula after a flash flood. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Wadi el Tor in the Sinai Peninsula after a flash flood. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Rocks polished by the winter flood were strewn across the wadi. These stones show the different rocks found in the Sinai. The red stones indicate iron. The green is copper. The black is basalt, indicating a volcanic area.

Rocks in the Wadi el Tour in the Sinai Peninsula. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Rocks in Wadi el Tor of the Sinai Peninsula. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Let us recall that the normally dry wilderness (midbar, desert) once flowed with water for the Israelites.

“He led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water; He brought water for you out of the rock of flint. (Deuteronomy 8:15 NAU)

He split the rocks in the wilderness And gave them abundant drink like the ocean depths. (Psalm 78:15 NAU)