Climate change in Africa
Climate change in Africa is an increasingly serious threat for Africans as Africa is among the most vulnerable continents to climate change. Anthropogenic climate change is already a reality in Africa, as it is elsewhere in the world. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the vulnerability of Africa to climate change is driven by a range of factors that include weak adaptive capacity, high dependence on ecosystem goods for livelihoods, and less developed agricultural production systems. The risks of climate change on agricultural production, food security, water resources and ecosystem services will likely have increasingly severe consequences on lives and sustainable development prospects in Africa. Managing this risk requires an integration of mitigation and adaptation strategies in the management of ecosystem goods and services, and the agriculture production systems in Africa.
Over the coming decades, warming from climate change is expected across almost all the Earth's surface, and global mean rainfall will increase. Regional effects on rainfall in the tropics are expected to be much more spatially variable and the sign of change at any one location is often less certain, although changes are expected. Consistent with this, observed surface temperatures have generally increased over Africa since the late 19th century to the early 21st century by about 1 °C, but locally as much as 3 °C for minimum temperature in the Sahel at the end of the dry season. Observed precipitation trends indicate spatial and temporal discrepancies as expected. The observed changes in temperature and precipitation vary regionally.
In terms of adaptation efforts, regional-level actors are making some progress. This includes the development and adoption of several regional climate change adaptation strategies e.g. SADC Policy Paper Climate Change, and the adaptation strategy for the water sector. In addition, there has been other efforts to enhance climate change adaptation, such as the tripatite Programme on Climate Change Adaptation, Mitigation in Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA-EAC-SADC).
As a supranational organization of 55 member states, the African Union has put forward 47 goals and corresponding actions in a 2014 draft report to combat and mitigate climate change on the continent. The Secretary General of the United Nations has also declared a need for close cooperation with the African Union in order to tackle climate change, in accordance with the UN's sustainable development goals.
Greenhouse gas emissionsEdit
Impacts on the natural environmentEdit
Temperature and weather changesEdit
Observed surface temperatures have generally increased over Africa since the late 19th century to the early 21st century by about 1 °C, but locally as much as 3 °C for minimum temperature in the Sahel at the end of the dry season. Observed precipitation trends indicate spatial and temporal discrepancies as expected. The observed changes in temperature and precipitation vary regionally.
Water quality and availability have deteriorated in most areas of Africa, particularly due to climate change. Water resources are vulnerable and have the possibility of being strongly impacted by climate change with vast ramifications on human societies. The IPCC predicts millions of people in Africa will persistently face increased water stress due to climate variability and change (IPCC 2013). Changes in precipitation patterns directly affect surface runoff and water availability. Any changes to the hydrological cycle may have significant effects on river basins of Africa. To improve understanding of past and future changes in water availability due to climate change, the IPCC (IPCC 2013) recommends using the dynamic downscaling technique. The IPCC 2013 proposed using the coordinated regional downscaling experiment (CORDEX) regional climate models which runs at a maximum of 50 km resolutions, the resolution used depends upon the size of the watershed and area coverage by the meteorological records. However, before using the climate simulations from the dynamic downscaling, it is appropriate to evaluate their performance at different spatial scales since their performance differs from one location to another and from one RCM to another.
Climate change is likely to further exacerbate water-stressed catchments across Africa - for example the Rufiji basin in Tanzania - owing to diversity of land uses, and complex sociopolitical challenges.
Impacts on peopleEdit
Climate change will increasingly impact Africa due to many factors. These impacts are already being felt and will increase in magnitude if action is not taken to reduce global carbon emissions. The impacts include higher temperatures, drought, changing rainfall patterns, and increased climate variability. These conditions have a bearing on energy production and consumption. The recent drought in many African countries, which has been linked to climate change, adversely affected both energy security and economic growth across the continent.
Africa will be one of the regions most impacted by the adverse effects of climate change. Reasons for Africa's vulnerability are diverse and include low levels of adaptive capacity, poor diffusion of technologies and information relevant to supporting adaptation, and high dependence on agro-ecosystems for livelihoods. Many countries across Africa are classified as Least-Developed Countries (LDCs) with poor socio-economic conditions, and by implication are faced with particular challenges in responding to the impacts of climate change.
In relation to agricultural systems, heavy reliance on rain-fed subsistence farming and low adoption of climate smart agricultural practices contribute to the sector's high levels of vulnerability. The situation is compounded by poor reliability of, and access to, climate data and information to support adaptation actions.
Agriculture is inherently sensitive to climate conditions and is one of the most vulnerable sectors to the risks and impacts of global climate change. Agriculture in most African countries is mainly small-scale and rain-fed, making it particularly vulnerable to climate variability and change. Observed and projected disruptions in precipitation patterns due to climate change are likely to shorten growing seasons and affect crop yield in many parts of Africa. Furthermore, the agriculture sector in Africa is dominated by smallholder farmers with limited access to technology and the resources to adapt.
Climate variability and change have been and continue to be the principal source of fluctuations in global food production across developing countries where production is highly rain-dependent. The agriculture sector is sensitive to climate variability, especially the inter-annual variability of precipitation, temperature patterns, and extreme weather events (droughts and floods). These climatic events are predicted to increase in the future and are expected to have significant consequences to the agriculture sector. This would have a negative influence on food prices, food security, and land-use decisions. Yields from rainfed agriculture in some African countries could be reduced by up to 50% by 2020. In order to prevent the future destructive impact of climate variability on food production, it is crucial to adjust or suggest possible policies to cope with increased climate variability. African countries need to build a national legal framework to manage food resources in accordance with the anticipated climate variability. However, before devising a policy to cope with the impacts of climate variability, especially to the agriculture sector, it is critical to have a clear understanding of how climate variability affects different food crops. This is particularly relevant in 2020 due to the severe invasion of Locusts adversely affecting agriculture in eastern Africa. The invasion was partially attributed to climate change - the warmer temperature and heavier rainfall which caused an abnormal increase in the number of locusts.
With increasing population and corresponding energy demand, energy security must be addressed because energy is crucial for sustainable development. Climate change has affected energy sectors in Africa as many countries depend on hydropower generation. Decreasing rainfall levels and droughts have resulted in lower water levels in dams with adverse impacts on hydropower generation. This has resulted in low electrical energy production, high cost of electricity and power outages or load-shedding in some African countries that depend on hydroelectric power generation. Disruptions in hydropower generation have negatively affected various sectors in countries such as Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania.
African countries have the least efficient public health systems in the world. Infectious disease burdens such as malaria, schistosomiasis, dengue fever, meningitis, which are sensitive to climate impacts, are highest in the sub-Saharan African region. For instance, over 90 percent of annual global malaria cases are in Africa. Changes in climate will affect the spread of infectious agents as well as alter people’s disposition to these infections.
Climate change, and resulting in increased temperatures, storms, droughts, and rising sea levels, will affect the incidence and distribution of infectious disease across the globe.
In July 2021, the World Food Programme (WFP), blamed the ongoing southern Madagascar food crisis as being caused solely by climate change and not by war or conflict. It was declared to be first famine caused by climate change.
In Africa malaria continues to have dramatic effects on the population. As climate change continues, the specific areas likely to experience the year-round, high-risk transmission of malaria will shift from coastal West Africa to an area between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda, known as the African Highlands.
Scientific limitations when examining shifting malaria transmission rates in the African Highlands are similar to those related to broader understandings of climate change and malaria. While modeling with temperature changes shows that there is a relationship between an increase in temperature and an increase in malaria transmission, limitations still exist. Future population shifts that affect population density, as well as changes in the behavior of mosquitos, can affect transmission rates and are limiting factors in determining the future risk of malaria outbreaks, which also affect planning for correct outbreak response preparation.
To reduce the impacts of climate change on African countries, adaption measures are required at multiple scales - ranging from local to national and regional levels. The first generation of adaptation projects in Africa can be largely characterised as small-scale in nature, focused on targeted investments in agriculture and diffusion of technologies to support adaptive decision-making. More recently, programming efforts have re-oriented towards larger and more coordinated efforts, tackling issues that spanning multiple sectors.
Improved weather forecasting technology in sub-Saharan Africa is important to inform the response to climate change, to aid decision-making associated with adaptation to climate change for example.
During the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP) in 2015, African heads of state launched the Africa Adaptation Initiative (AAI). The AAI’s steering committee is composed of the African Ministerial Conference on Environment (AMCEN) Bureau and the chair of the African Group of Negotiators (AGN).
The Africa Adaptation Initiative is also supported by the European Union. The European Union has partnered with the African Union on the promotion of sustainable resources management, environmental resilience, and climate change mitigation
At the regional level, regional policies and actions in support of adaptation across Africa are still in their infancy. The IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) highlights examples of various regional climate change action plans, including those developed by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and Lake Victoria Basin Committee. At the national level, many early adaptation initiatives were coordinated through National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) or National Climate Change Response Strategies (NCCRS). Implementation has been slow however, with mixed success in delivery. Integration of climate change with wider economic and development planning remains limited but growing.
At the subnational level, many provincial and municipal authorities are also developing their own strategies, for example the Western Cape Climate Change Response Strategy. Yet, levels of technical capacity and resources available to implement plans are generally low. There has been considerable attention across Africa given to implementing community-based adaptation projects. There is broad agreement that support to local-level adaptation is best achieved by starting with existing local adaptive capacity, and engaging with indigenous knowledge and practices.
- Enhancing support for autonomous forms of adaptation;
- Increasing attention to the cultural, ethical, and rights considerations of adaptation (especially through active participation of women, youth, and poor and vulnerable people in adaptation activities);
- Combining “soft path” options and flexible and iterative learning approaches with technological and infrastructural approaches (including integration of scientific, local, and indigenous knowledge in developing adaptation strategies)
- Focusing on enhancing resilience and implementing low-regrets adaptation options; and
- Building adaptive management and encouraging process of social and institutional learning into adaptation activities.
The World Health Organization's report “Adaptation to Climate Change in Africa Plan of Action for the Health Sector 2012-2016." is intended to "provide a comprehensive and evidence-based coordinated response of the health sector to climate change adaptation needs of African countries in order to support the commitments and priorities of African governments." The action plan includes goals like scaling up public health activities, coordinating efforts on an international scale, strengthening partnerships and collaborative efforts, and promoting research on both the effects of climate change as well as effective measures taken in local communities to mitigate climate change consequences.
Northern Africa adaption measuresEdit
Key adaptations in northern Africa relate to increased risk of water scarcity (resulting from a combination of climate change affecting water availability and increasing demand). Reduced water availability, in turn, interacts with increasing temperatures to create need for adaptation among rainfed wheat production and changing disease risk (for example from leishmaniasis). Most government actions for adaptation centre on water supply side, for example through desalination, inter-basin transfers and dam construction. Migration has also been observed to act as an adaptation for individuals and households in northern Africa. Like many regions, however, examples of adaptation action (as opposed to intentions to act, or vulnerability assessments) from north Africa are limited - a systematic review published in 2011 showed that only 1 out of 87 examples of reported adaptations came from North Africa.
Western Africa adaption measuresEdit
Water availability is a particular risk in Western Africa, with extreme events such as drought leading to humanitarian crises associated with periodic famines, food insecurity, population displacement, migration and conflict and insecurity. Adaptation strategies can be environmental, cultural/agronomic and economic.
Adaptation strategies are evident in the agriculture sector, some of which are developed or promoted by formal research or experimental stations. Indigenous agricultural adaptations observed in northern Ghana are crop-related, soil-related or involve cultural practices. Livestock-based agricultural adaptations include indigenous strategies such as adjusting quantities of feed to feed livestock, storing enough feed during the abundant period to be fed to livestock during the lean season, treating wounds with solution of certain barks of trees, and keeping local breeds which are already adapted to the climate of northern Ghana; and livestock production technologies to include breeding, health, feed/nutrition and housing.
The choice and adoption of adaptation strategies is variously contingent on demographic factors such as the household size, age, gender and education of the household head; economic factors such as income source; farm size; knowledge of adaptation options; and expectation of future prospects.
Eastern Africa adaption measuresEdit
In Eastern Africa adaptation options are varied, including improving use of climate information, actions in the agriculture and livestock sector, and in the water sector.
Making better use of climate and weather data, weather forecasts, and other management tools enables timely information and preparedness of people in the sectors such as agriculture that depend on weather outcomes. This means mastering hydro-meteorological information and early warning systems. It has been argued that the indigenous communities possess knowledge on historical climate changes through environmental signs (e.g. appearance and migration of certain birds, butterflies etc.), and thus promoting of indigenous knowledge has been considered an important adaptation strategy.
Adaptation in the agricultural sector includes increased use of manure and crop-specific fertilizer, use of resistant varieties of crops and early maturing crops. Manure, and especially animal manure is thought to retain water and have essential microbes that breakdown nutrients making them available to plants, as compared to synthetic fertilizers that have compounds which when released to the environment due to over-use release greenhouse gases. One major vulnerability of the agriculture sector in Eastern Africa is the dependence on rain-fed agriculture. An adaptation solution is efficient irrigation mechanisms and efficient water storage and use. Drip irrigation has especially been identified as a water-efficient option as it directs the water to the root of the plant with minimal wastage. Countries like Rwanda and Kenya have prioritized developing irrigated areas by gravity water systems from perennial streams and rivers in zones vulnerable to prolonged droughts. During heavy rains, many areas experience flooding resulting from bare grounds due to deforestation and little land cover. Adaptation strategies proposed for this is promoting conservation efforts on land protection, by planting indigenous trees, protecting water catchment areas and managing grazing lands through zoning.
For the livestock sector, adaptation options include managing production through sustainable land and pasture management in the ecosystems. This includes promoting hay and fodder production methods e.g. through irrigation and use of waste treated water, and focusing on investing in hay storage for use during dry seasons. Keeping livestock is considered a livelihood rather than an economic activity. Throughout Eastern Africa Countries especially in the ASALs regions, it is argued that promoting commercialization of livestock is an adaptation option. This involves adopting economic models in livestock feed production, animal traceability, promoting demand for livestock products such as meat, milk and leather and linking to niche markets to enhance businesses and provide disposable income.
In the water sector, options include efficient use of water for households, animals and industrial consumption and protection of water sources. Campaigns such as planting indigenous trees in water catchment areas, controlling human activities near catchment areas especially farming and settlement have been carried out to help protect water resources and avail access to water for communities especially during climatic shocks.
Comoros - "NAPA is the operational extension of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP), as it includes among its adaptation priorities, agriculture, fishing, water, housing, health, but also tourism, in an indirect way, through the reconstitution of basin slopes and the fight against soils erosion, and therefore the protection of reefs by limiting the silting up by terrigenous contributions."
Kenya gazetted the Climate Change Act, 2016 which establishes an authority to oversee development, management, implementation and regulation of mechanisms to enhance climate change resilience and low carbon development for sustainable development, by the National and County Governments, the private sector, civil society, and other actors. Kenya has also developed the National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP 2018-2022) which aims to further the country's development goals by providing mechanisms and measures to achieve low carbon climate-resilient development in a manner that prioritizes adaptation.
Central Africa adaption measuresEdit
Angola - "The objective of the National Adaptation Programs of Action are to identify and communicate the urgent and immediate needs of the country regarding climate change adaptation, to increase Angola‘s resilience to climate variabilities and to climate change to ensure achievement of Poverty reduction programs, sustainable development objectives and the Millennium Development Goals pursued by the Government."
Southern Africa adaption measuresEdit
There have been several initiatives at local (site-specific), local, national and regional scales aimed at strengthening to climate change. Some of these are: The Regional Climate Change Programme (RCCP), SASSCAL, ASSAR, UNDP Climate Change Adaptation, RESILIM, FRACTAL. South Africa implemented the Long-Term Adaptation Scenarios Flagship Research Programme (LTAS) from April 2012 to June 2014. This research also produced factsheets and a technical report covering the SADC region entitled "Climate Change Adaptation: Perspectives for the Southern African Development Community (SADC)".
Madagascar - the priority sectors for adaptation are: agriculture and livestock, forestry, public health, water resources and coastal zones.
Malawi - The NAPA identifies the following as high priority activities for adaptation: "Improving community resilience to climate change through the development of sustainable rural livelihoods, Restoring forests in the Upper and Lower Shire Valleys catchments to reduce siltation and associated water flow problems, Improving agricultural production under erratic rains and changing climatic conditions, Improving Malawi’s preparedness to cope with droughts and floods, and Improving climate monitoring to enhance Malawi’s early warning capability and decision making and sustainable utilization of Lake Malawi and lakeshore areas resources".
Mauritius - adaptation should address the following priority areas: coastal resources, agriculture, water resources, fisheries, health and well-being, land use change and forestry and biodiversity.
Mozambique - "The proposed adaptation initiatives target various areas of economic and social development, and outline projects related to the reduction of impacts to natural disasters, the creation of adaptation measures to climate change, fight against soil erosion in areas of high desertification and coastal zones, reforestation and the management of water resources."
Rwanda has developed the National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA 2006) which contains information to guide national policy-makers and planners on priority vulnerabilities and adaptations in important economic sectors. The country has also developed sector based policies on adaptation to climate change such as the Vision 2020, the National Environmental Policy and the Agricultural Policy among others.
Tanzania Tanzania has outlined priority adaptation measures in their NAPA, and various national sector strategies and research outputs. The NAPA has been successful at encouraging climate change mainstreaming into sector policies in Tanzania; however, the cross-sectoral collaboration crucial to implementing adaptation strategies remains limited due to institutional challenges such as power imbalances, budget constraints and an ingrained sectoral approach. Most of the projects in Tanzania concern agriculture and water resource management (irrigation, water saving, rainwater collection); however, energy and tourism also play an important role.
Zambia - "The NAPA identifies 39 urgent adaptation needs and 10 priority areas within the sectors of agriculture and food security (livestock, fisheries and crops), energy and water, human health, natural resources and wildlife"
Zimbabwe - "The other strategic interventions by the NAP process will be: Strengthening the role of private sector in adaptation planning, Enhancing of the capacity of Government to develop bankable projects through trainings, Improving management of background climate information to inform climate change planning, Crafting a proactive resource-mobilization strategy for identifying and applying for international climate finance as requests for funds are primarily reactive at present, focusing on emergency relief rather than climate change risk reduction, preparedness and adaptation, Developing a coordinated monitoring and evaluation policy for programs and projects, as many institutions within the government do not currently have a systematic approach to monitoring and evaluation. "
Lesotho - "The key objectives of the NAPA process entail: identification of communities and livelihoods most vulnerable to climate change, generating a list of activities that would form a core of the national adaptation program of action, and to communicate the country’s immediate and urgent needs and priorities for building capacity for adaptation to climate change"
Namibia - the critical themes for adaptation are "Food security and sustainable biological resource base, Sustainable water resources base, Human health and well being and Infrastructure development.
South Africa[needs update]- is in the progress of finalizing its national climate change adaptation strategy. "The National Adaptation strategy acts as a common reference point for climate change adaptation efforts in South Africa, and it provides a platform upon which national climate change adaptation objectives for the country can be articulated so as to provide overarching guidance to all sectors of the economy"
Central Africa, for the most part, is landlocked and is geographically threatened by climate change. Due to its high climate variability and rainfed agriculture, Central Africa is expected to experience longer and more frequent heatwaves as well as an increase in wet extremes. The global mean temperature in this region is to increase by 1.5 °C to 2 °C.
The carbon dioxide-absorbing capacity of forests in the Congo Basin have decreased. This decrease has occurred due to increasing heat and drought causing decreased tree growth. This suggests that even unlogged forests are being affected by climate change. A Nature study indicates that by 2030, the African jungle will absorb 14 percent less carbon dioxide than it did from around 2005-2010, and will absorb none at all by 2035.
Situated almost entirely in the tropics, rainfall in Eastern Africa is dominated by the seasonal migration of the tropical-rain band. Eastern Africa is characterized by high spatio-temporal rainfall variability as it spans over 30 degrees of latitude (across the equator). It has influences from both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, and has major orographic features (highlands) as well as inland water bodies such as Lake Victoria. Therefore the rainfall seasonality varies from a single wet season per year in July–August in parts of the northwest (including Ethiopia and South Sudan, which are meteorologically more connected to West Africa, with the West African monsoon bringing the rains) to a single wet season per year in December - February in the south (over Tanzania), with many areas close to the equator having two rainy seasons per year, approximately in March–May (the “Long Rains”) and October to December (the “Short Rains”). Fine-scale variability in rainfall seasonality is often linked to orography and lakes. Inter-annual variability can be large and known controls include variations in Sea surface temperatures (SSTs) of different ocean basins, large-scale atmospheric modes of variability such as the Madden-Julian Osciliation (MJO)  and tropical cyclones. The Long Rains are the main crop‐growing season in the region. Interannual predictability of this season is low compared to the Short Rains, and recent drying contrasts with climate projections of a wetter future (the “East African climate paradox”).
Eastern Africa has witnessed frequent and severe droughts in recent decades, as well as devastating floods. Trends in rainfall since the 1980s show a general decrease in March - May (MAM) seasonal rains with a slight increase during June - September (JJAS) and October - December (OND) rains, although there appears to have been a recent recovery in the MAM rains. In the future, both rainfall and temperature are projected to change over Eastern Africa. Recent studies on climate projections suggest that average temperature might increase by about 2-3 °C by the middle of the century and 2-5 °C at the end of the century. This will depend on emission scenarios as well as on how the real climate responds compared with the range of possible outcomes shown by models. Climate model projections tend to show an increase in rainfall, particularly during OND season, which is also projected to occur later. This delay in the short rain season, has been linked to the deepening of the Saharan Heat Low under climate change. It should be noted, however that some models predict decreasing rainfall, and for some regions and seasons the very largest rainfall increases predicted have been shown to involve implausible mechanisms due to systematic model errors. In addition, changes of aerosols provide a forcing of rainfall change that is not captured in many assessments of climate projections.
The contrast of the drying trend of MAM (long rains) rainfall in equatorial Eastern Africa, with most models predicting a wetting in the future has been labelled the “East African climate change paradox," although there has been some recent recovery in the rainfall. Studies have shown that the drying trend is unlikely to be purely natural, but may be driven by factors such as aerosols rather than greenhouse gases, further research is needed. The drying has been shown to be have been caused by a shorter rainy season, and linked to deepening of the Arabian Heat Low.
Consistent with the uncertainty in rainfall projections, changes in rainy seasons onset are uncertain in equatorial Eastern Africa, although many models predict a later and wetter short rains. The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is known to provide a strong control on inter-annual variability in the short rains, and studies show that extreme IODs may increase under climate change.
Globally, climate change is expected to lead to intensification of rainfall, as extreme rainfall increases at a faster rate with warming than total rainfall does. Recent work shows that across Africa global models are expected to under-estimate the rate of change of this rainfall intensification, and changes in rainfall extremes may be much more widespread than those predicted by global models.
Southern parts of Eastern Africa receive most of their rainfall in a single rainy season during the southern hemisphere’s winter: over Tanzania seasonal rainfall is projected to increase under future climate change, although there is uncertainty. Further south, over Mozambique, a shorter season due to a later onset is projected under future climate change, again with some uncertainty.
Climate change in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) refers to changes in the climate of the MENA region and the subsequent response, adaption and mitigation strategies of countries in the region. In 2018, the MENA region emitted 3.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide and produced 8.7% of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) despite making up only 6% of the global population. These emissions are mostly from the energy sector, an integral component of many Middle Eastern and North African economies due to the extensive oil and natural gas reserves that are found within the region.Recognised by the United Nations, The World Bank and the World Health Organisation as one of the greatest global challenges in the 21st century, climate change is currently having an unprecedented effect upon the Earth's natural systems. Sharp global temperature and sea level changes, shifting precipitation patterns and increased frequency of extreme weather events are some of the main impacts of climate change as identified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The MENA region is especially vulnerable to such impacts due to its arid and semi-arid environment, facing climatic challenges such as low rainfall, high temperatures and dry soil. The climatic conditions that foster such challenges for MENA are projected by the IPCC to worsen throughout the 21st century. If greenhouse gas emissions are not significantly reduced, part of the MENA region risks becoming uninhabitable before the year 2100.
West Africa and the SahelEdit
The West African region can be divided into four climatic sub-regions namely the Guinea Coast, Soudano-Sahel, Sahel (extending eastward to the Ethiopian border) and the Sahara, each with different climatic conditions. The seasonal cycle of rainfall is mainly driven by the south-north movement of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) which is characterised by the confluence between moist southwesterly monsoon winds and the dry northeasterly Harmattan.
Based on the inter-annual rainfall variability, three main climatic periods have been observed over the Sahel: the wet period from 1950 to the early 1960s followed by a dry period from 1972 to 1990 and then the period from 1991 onwards which has seen a partial rainfall recovery. During the dry period, the Sahel experienced a number of particularly severe drought events, with devastating effects. The recent decades, have also witnessed a moderate increment in annual rainfall since the beginning of 1990s. However, total annual rainfall remains significantly below that observed during the 1950s.
Some have identified the recent 2 decades as a recovery period. Others refer to this as a period of ‘hydrological intensification’ with much of the annual rainfall increase coming from more severe rain events and sometimes flooding rather than more frequent rainfall, or similarly other works  underline the continuity of the drought even though the rainfall has increased. Since 1985, 54 percent of the population has been affected by five or more floods in the 17 Sahel region countries. In 2012, severe drought conditions in the Sahel were reported. Governments in the region responded quickly, launching strategies to address the issue.
The region is projected to experience changes in rainfall regime, with climate models suggesting that decreases in wet season rainfall are more likely in the western Sahel, and increases more likely in the central to east Sahel, although opposite trends cannot yet be ruled out. These trends will affect the frequency and severity of floods, droughts, desertification, sand and dust storms, desert locust plagues and water shortages.
However, irrespective of the changes in seasonal mean rain, the most intense storms are expected to become more intense, amplifying flood frequency. Enhanced carbon emissions and global warming may also lead to an increase in dry spells especially across the Guinea Coast associated with a reduction of the wet spells under both 1.5℃ and 2℃ global warming level.
Fifteen percent of Sahel region population has also experienced a temperature increase of more than 1 °C from 1970 to 2010. The Sahel region, in particular, will experience higher average temperatures over the course of the 21st century and changes in rainfall patterns, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
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- Future Climate For Africa programme
- Africa's Climate Report 2016
- African Climate Policy Centre (ACCP) goal is to contribute to poverty reduction through successful mitigation and adaptation to climate change in Africa and to improve the capacity of African countries to participate effectively in multilateral climate negotiations.
- African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analysis 2050 (AMMA-2050) aim to address the challenges of understanding how the monsoon will change in future decades, to 2050, and how this information can be most effectively used to support climate-compatible development in the region.
- Collaborative Adaptation Research Initiative in Africa and Asia (CARIAA) builds resilience by supporting collaborative research on climate change adaptation to inform adaptation policy and practice.
- Integrating Hydro-Climate Science into Policy Decisions for Climate-Resilient Infrastructure and Livelihoods in East Africa (HyCRISTAL) was aimed to tackle uncertainties that exist around climate change projections for the region, concentrating in particular on what they mean for the availability and management of water.
- Southern African Science Service Centre for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Management (SASSCAL) initiative aims to put possible solutions to the many challenges of global change to develop and produce scientifically sound findings and sustainable socio-economic benefits for the entire Southern Africa region.
- West African Science Service Center on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use (WASSCAL) is a research-focused Climate Service Centre designed to help tackle this challenge and thereby enhance the resilience of human and environmental systems to climate change and increased variability in West Africa.