Warming Worsened West Africa Floods That Killed 800 People

Warming Worsened West Africa Floods That Killed 800 People

This summer, torrential rains in Nigeria caused catastrophic floods that killed hundreds and displaced over a million people. A new study finds that the influence of global warming made the downpours 80 times more probable.

This is the latest report from World Weather Attribution, an international research consortium that specializes in the link between climate change and extreme weather. The organization has identified the global warming fingerprints in deadly flood in Pakistan , and extreme hot in the United Kingdom ..

The new analysis examines a series of devastating floods in the West African nations of Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Benin that killed at least 800 people. The disasters caused more than 3,000,000 deaths and 1.5 million displacements.

The floods were caused by an unusually severe and early monsoon season. Experts believe that flood waters were likely caused by water released from several dams including the Lagdo Dam, Cameroon, and the Tiga Dam, Nigeria.

The World Weather Attribution team used a combination climate model simulations and observations to examine the impact of climate change on floods. It focused on two key metrics. It first examined the average seasonal rainfall in the entire Lake Chad region. Next, it examined the seven-day period with the highest precipitation in the lower Niger River Basin. This is where the worst floods have been recorded.

The team found that the heaviest seven-days were twice as likely to occur due to climate change. The entire summer’s average rainfall, on the other hand, was probably about 80 times more likely. The rains were also likely around 20 percent more intense than they would have been without the influence of global warming.

These kinds of events have become more frequent with the warming of the planet. They aren’t rare anymore. In any given year, the region has a 1-in-10 chance of a disaster on the order of this summer’s floods.

Models suggest that these kinds of events may worsen at a slightly slower pace in this part of Africa over the coming decades than they did over the last 30 years. They will still intensify as the world warms.

A separate World Weather Attribution analysis shows that a large portion of Africa is currently facing a food security crisis. The West African monsoon season is often unpredictable from year to year. Contrary to this summer’s intense and early monsoons the summer of 2021 saw an “erratic rainy” season with short, delayed monsoons.

Crop production across the region dropped precipitously as a result, falling by as much as 36 percent in Niger and 10 percent in Burkina Faso. Other global events, like the continuing Covid-19 pandemic and falling wheat imports as a result of Russia’s war in Ukraine, have worsened the situation.

The analysis did not find any significant evidence of climate change in the last year’s uneven rainfall. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that warming was not an influence. There is a lack of reliable meteorological data in the region making it difficult to evaluate observations and reconstruct them using climate models. The research team could not determine whether warming was responsible for last summer’s water shortages.

The food crisis highlights the region’s growing vulnerability to shocks caused by extreme weather events. These are expected to get worse as global temperatures rise.

Both studies were published as representatives from around the globe gathered in Egypt to discuss the annual U.N. Climate Conference. The meeting will focus on climate-related loss and damages, with developing countries calling for financial compensation from wealthier countries for the damage that climate change is causing.

Recent events in West Africa show the urgency of climate assistance for nations that are suffering from the worst effects of climate change, Maarten Van Aalst, director at the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, stated in a statement.

” “The common thread in both of our studies was that extreme weather events and climate changes are far more severe in contexts high vulnerability,” he stated.

Reprinted from E&E News with permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2022. E&E News delivers vital news to professionals in the energy and environment industries.

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