Climate and Hydrology
Within Libya as many as five different climatic zones have been recognized, but the dominant climatic influences are Mediterranean and Saharan. In most of the coastal lowland, the climate is Mediterranean, with warm summers and mild winters. Rainfall is scanty. The weather is cooler in the highlands, and frosts occur at maximum elevations. In the desert interior the climate has very hot summers and extreme diurnal temperature ranges. The highest official temperature ever recorded was on 13 September 1922 at 'Aziziya, Libya, but that reading is queried.
Less than 2% of the national territory receives enough rainfall for settled agriculture, the heaviest precipitation occurring in the Jabal al Akhdar zone of Cyrenaica, where annual rainfall of 400 to 600 mm (15.7 to 23.6 in) is recorded. All other areas of the country receive less than 400 mm (15.7 in), and in the Sahara 50 mm (1.97 in) or less occurs. Rainfall is often erratic, and a pronounced drought may extend over two seasons. For example, epic floods in 1945 left Tripoli underwater for several days, but two years later an unprecedentedly severe drought caused the loss of thousands of head of cattle.
Deficiency in rainfall is reflected in an absence of permanent rivers or streams, and the approximately twenty perennial lakes are brackish or salty. In 1987 these circumstances severely limited the country's agricultural potential as a basis for the sound and varied economy Gaddafi sought to establish. The allocation of limited water is considered of sufficient importance to warrant the existence of the Secretariat of Dams and Water Resources, and damaging a source of water can be punished by a heavy fine or imprisonment.
The government has constructed a network of dams in wadis, dry watercourses that become torrents after heavy rains. These dams are used both as water reservoirs and for flood and erosion control. The wadis are heavily settled because soil in their bottoms is often suitable for agriculture, and the high water table in their vicinity makes them logical locations for digging wells. In many wadis, however, the water table is declining at an alarming rate, particularly in areas of intensive agriculture and near urban centers. The government has expressed concern over this problem and because of it has diverted water development projects, particularly around Tripoli, to localities where the demand on underground water resources is less intense. It has also undertaken extensive reforestation projects.
There are also numerous springs, those best suited for future development occurring along the scarp faces of the Jabal Nafusah and the Jabal al Akhdar. The most talked-about of the water resources, however, are the great subterranean aquifers of the desert. The best known of these lies beneath Kufra Oasis in southeastern Cyrenaica, but an aquifer with even greater reputed capacity is located near the oasis community of Sabha in the southwestern desert. In the late 1970s, wells were drilled at Kufra and at Sabha as part of a major agricultural development effort. An even larger undertaking is the so-called Great Manmade River, initiated in 1984. It is intended to tap the tremendous aquifers of the Kufra, Sarir, and Sabha oases and to carry the resulting water to the Mediterranean coast for use in irrigation and industrial projects.
Read more about this topic: Geography Of Libya
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