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12 Sep 2022

Temperatures, drought, extreme weather among 13 climate-related findings in State of Climate in Africa 2021 report

(Daily News: IOL) Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA). Homes in Georgedale in Hammarsdale, eThekwini, were flooded after a water exit near the area was blocked.

Durban — The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) provided 11 key messages from its findings in its recently released State of the Climate in Africa 2021 Report indicating that the state of the climate in Africa highlighted water stress and hazards and said although climate action in Africa was gaining momentum, more was needed.

The WMO said that water stress and hazards like withering heat, droughts and devastating floods are hitting African communities, economies and ecosystems hard. The report revealed that rainfall patterns are disrupted, glaciers are disappearing and key lakes are shrinking. Rising water demand combined with limited and unpredictable supplies threatens to aggravate conflict and displacement.

Key messages:

Temperatures: Africa warmed at an average rate of around +0.3 °C/decade between 1991 and 2021, faster than the warming from 1961 to 1990, at +0.2°C/decade. The year 2021 was either the third or fourth warmest year on record for Africa.

Sea level rise is increasing along the African coastlines at a higher rate than the global mean rate, especially along the Red Sea and the southwest Indian Ocean where the rate is close to 4mm/year. This is likely to continue in the future, contributing to increased frequency and severity of coastal flooding in low-lying cities and increased salinity of groundwater due to seawater intrusion. By 2030, 108 to 116 million people in Africa are expected to be exposed to sea level rise risk.

Drought in East Africa has worsened following consecutive failed rainy seasons combined with heightened conflict, related population displacement and Covid-19 restrictions. High food prices impeded food availability and access, leaving more than 58 million people in conditions of acute food insecurity. The situation is worsening this year – especially in Ethiopia, Somalia and parts of Kenya. Southern Madagascar is also suffering from acute drought.

Extreme Weather: Severe floods affected South Sudan, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. South Sudan recorded the third straight year of extreme floods leading to elevated water levels of lakes and rivers, resulting from the intense rainfall in 2020 and 2021.

Many parts of Northern Africa experienced extreme heat, especially in Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Libya. This was accompanied by wildfires. Sand and dust storms were a recurring problem.

Hazards: Droughts and floods are the top concern. In the past 50 years, drought-related hazards have claimed the lives of over half a million people and led to economic losses of over $70 billion (R1.19 trillion) in the region. More than 1 000 flood-related disasters were reported involving more than 20 000 deaths in Africa over this period. It is estimated that by 2050, climate impacts could cost African nations $50bn annually.

Freshwater: The total surface area of Lake Chad, located close to the Sahara desert bordering Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Niger has shrunk from 25 000 km2 in the 1960s to 1 350 km2 in the 2000s and remained stable since. In West Africa, the long-term decline in river flow is attributed to increasing temperatures, drought, and increased water demand.

Glaciers in equatorial East Africa: Mount Kenya (Kenya), Mount Kilimanjaro (Tanzania), and the Rwenzoris Mountains (Uganda) are retreating at a faster rate than the global mean. Whether or not glaciers fully disappear in East Africa depends on the amount of future precipitation that falls in the East Africa region.

Food insecurity: Increased temperature contributed to a 34% reduction in agricultural productivity growth in Africa since 1961 – more than any other region in the world. This trend is expected to continue in the future, increasing the risk of acute food insecurity and malnutrition. Global warming of 1.5°C is projected to be accompanied by a decline of 9% of the maize yield in West Africa and 20% to 60% of the wheat yield in Southern and Northern Africa.

Displacement: Climate-related hazards continued to be a major driver of new displacement in Africa. Chronic floods and droughts, sea level rise, and extreme weather events all influence displacement patterns within borders and across international borders. In 2021, around 14.1 million people were internally displaced in Sub-Saharan Africa, including around 11.5 million due to conflict and violence and 2.5 million due to disasters.

Early Warning Systems: In Africa, the rate of implementation of the Multi-Hazard Early Warning System is lower than in other regions, with only four out of 10 people covered. There is a need to fill the capacity gap in collecting data for basic hydrometeorological variables which underpin better climate services and early warning systems to save lives and livelihoods. There should be greater investment in end-to-end drought and flood early warning systems in at-risk least developed countries, especially for drought warnings in Africa.

Climate services: There is an urgent need to improve climate services provision in Africa. Currently, 28 countries provide climate services from basic to essential levels and only nine provide those services at a full level. Only four countries are providing end-to-end drought forecasting or warning services at a full/advanced capacity level.

Water stress: increasing consumption combined with more frequent droughts and heat events will increase water demand and put additional pressure on already scarce water resources. Disruption in water availability will impede access to safe water and threatens to trigger conflict between people who are already contending with economic challenges. Around 418 million people still lack even a basic level of drinking water and 779 million people lack basic sanitation services.

Water resource management: 27 out of 51 African countries for which data is available have inadequate capacity to implement Integrated Water Resource Management and in 2020, many activities were undertaken on an ad hoc basis with unsustainable financing.