Deadly African heatwave ‘impossible’ without warming


Scientists say that a deadly heatwave in West Africa and the Sahel was made much worse by human-induced climate change. Temperatures soared to over 48C in Mali, leading to hundreds of deaths. The use of fossil fuels and deforestation made the heatwave hotter than usual, up to 1.5C above normal temperatures.

The intense heatwave lasted for five days and affected countries like Mali and Burkina Faso the most. In Mali’s capital, Bamako, over 100 people died in the extreme heat, especially those over 60 years old.

Researchers say that without climate change, the heatwave wouldn’t have been as severe. The warming climate made temperatures much hotter, increasing the risk of heat-related deaths.

While heatwaves like this used to be rare, they’re expected to become more common as the climate warms further. If global temperatures rise above 2C, severe heatwaves could happen every 20 years.

On the other hand, a serious drought in southern Africa earlier this year was not mainly caused by climate change. Low rainfall during the December-February period led to crop failures and water shortages in countries like Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Researchers found that this drought was primarily caused by the El Niño weather phenomenon, which brings warm water to the Pacific Ocean and affects weather patterns worldwide. While climate change can make droughts more likely in a warmer world, this particular drought was mainly due to El Niño.

Understanding the causes of extreme weather events like heatwaves and droughts helps scientists and policymakers better prepare for and respond to these challenges in the future.


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