Temperatures Rising in Africa Faster than Global Average

A new report attributed steadily rising temperatures and climate change to more prevalent drought, increased water scarcity, poor harvests and more extreme weather events.
Kampala, Uganda
By Paolo DeAndreis
Sep. 14, 2022 12:53 UTC

Surface tem­per­a­tures in Africa rose more than the global aver­age in 2021, mak­ing last year one of the hottest on record for the con­ti­nent.

According to the State of the Climate in Africa 2021 report, pub­lished by the World Meteorological Organization, ris­ing tem­per­a­tures con­tributed to heat­waves, wild­fires, exten­sive floods and lakes evap­o­rat­ing, all pos­ing severe con­se­quences for peo­ple, bio­di­ver­sity and agri­cul­ture in sev­eral coun­tries.

It is imper­a­tive for the con­ti­nent to accel­er­ate efforts to estab­lish robust regional and national early warn­ing sys­tems and cli­mate ser­vices for cli­mate-sen­si­tive sec­tors.- Petteri Taalas, sec­re­tary-gen­eral, WMO

The impact of cli­mate change on agri­cul­ture is for­mi­da­ble in Africa. Since 1961, steadily ris­ing tem­per­a­tures have reduced the devel­op­ment of African agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tiv­ity by 34 per­cent.

According to the report, the trend is likely to con­tinue with severe con­se­quences for food secu­rity.

See Also:Mediterranean Agricultural Biodiversity at Risk, Report Finds

In a sce­nario where global tem­per­a­tures increase 1.5 °C above pre-indus­trial lev­els, experts believe that West Africa would lose at least 9 per­cent of its maize yield, with wheat yields des­tined to decline between 20 to 60 per­cent in south­ern and north­ern Africa.

Researchers also noted that North Africa, the continent’s largest olive-grow­ing region, is expe­ri­enc­ing a more sig­nif­i­cant and rapid tem­per­a­ture rise.

Temperatures in North Africa grew twice as quickly from 1991 to 2001 as they did from 1961 to 1990, and almost twice the global rate for the same period.

In Tunisia, tra­di­tion­ally the largest olive-pro­duc­ing coun­try out­side of Europe, the sum­mer of 2021 was the hottest since 1950, with tem­per­a­tures exceed­ing the 1981 to 2010 aver­age by 2.65 °C.

Two heat­waves enveloped the coun­try, with peaks of 49.9 °C in Tozeur and 50.3 ºC in Kairouan, one of Tunisia’s most rel­e­vant olive-grow­ing regions.

In north­ern Africa, pre­cip­i­ta­tion pat­terns were also highly anom­alous in 2021. Above-aver­age pre­cip­i­ta­tion reported in north­east­ern Egypt was accom­pa­nied by below-aver­age rain­fall in Morocco, Tunisia and north­west­ern Libya.

Stoked on by the dry weather, wild­fires raged across Algeria and Tunisia, where thou­sands of hectares of fruit trees were lost, and thou­sands of farm ani­mals died.

The WMO con­firmed that the fre­quency of extreme heat events on the con­ti­nent is increas­ing, with the hottest days on records all hap­pen­ing in the past few years.

Food secu­rity has been jeop­ar­dized in many areas. People in sev­eral regions have been forced to leave their homes due to extreme weather events, such as the floods in South Sudan, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Besides North Africa, severe droughts have been reported in the Sahel, East Africa and Madagascar.

Additionally, ris­ing sea lev­els in 2021 impacted low-lying coastal cities and increased the salin­ity of coastal farm­ing zones, accel­er­at­ing ero­sion and wors­en­ing coastal flood­ing. According to the report, 108 to 116 mil­lion peo­ple will be at risk of ris­ing sea lev­els by 2030.

Scientists and cli­mate experts that authored the report empha­sized how the con­stant increase in water con­sump­tion will add pres­sure to water demand and water resources that are already scarce.

The sit­u­a­tion is exac­er­bated by droughts and heat waves, which are pre­dicted to become longer and more severe over time.


Disruptions in water avail­abil­ity will impede access to safe water. In addi­tion, lim­ited water avail­abil­ity and water scarcity are expected to trig­ger con­flicts among peo­ple who are already con­tend­ing with eco­nomic chal­lenges,” the report reads.

WMO data show that 418 mil­lion peo­ple do not have access to a basic level of drink­ing water,” with 779 mil­lion not hav­ing access to basic san­i­ta­tion ser­vices.”

According to the report, moun­tain glac­i­ers on the con­ti­nent con­tinue to recede. In a few cases, such as Mount Kilimanjaro, 85 per­cent of the ice cover has been lost in the last cen­tury.

Several sig­nif­i­cant glac­i­ers are set to dis­ap­pear in a mat­ter of years. River dis­charge is pro­gres­sively reduc­ing in most coun­tries.

The new report, com­piled in asso­ci­a­tion with the African Union Commission and sev­eral inter­na­tional agen­cies, is the third of a series and focuses on water resources. It pro­vided cli­mate analy­sis, iden­ti­fied hydro-mete­o­ro­log­i­cal events, impacts and risks, and sug­gested cli­mate actions” con­sid­ered cru­cial to strengthen African nations’ resilience to cli­mate change.

According to sci­en­tists, cli­mate change is fueled by green­house gas emis­sions pro­duced by human activ­i­ties around the world. However, African coun­tries account for only 2 to 3 per­cent of those emis­sions.

At the recent Africa Adaptation Summit in the Netherlands, African lead­ers fiercely crit­i­cized the absence of lead­ers from indus­tri­al­ized coun­tries respon­si­ble for the vast major­ity of emis­sions.

According to report­ing from the North Africa Post, the Senegalese pres­i­dent and African Union chief Macky Sall warned that cli­mate change not only con­cerns the fate of Africa… but the fate of human­ity and the future of the planet.”

More than 83 per­cent of national cli­mate plans in Africa include green­house gas reduc­tion tar­gets, focus­ing on energy, agri­cul­ture, waste, land use and forestry.

It is imper­a­tive for the con­ti­nent to accel­er­ate efforts to estab­lish robust regional and national early warn­ing sys­tems and cli­mate ser­vices for cli­mate-sen­si­tive sec­tors in order to strengthen cli­mate resilience and adap­ta­tion capac­i­ties,” wrote Petteri Taalas, WMO’s sec­re­tary gen­eral, intro­duc­ing the report.

The WMO esti­mates that less than 40 per­cent of Africans have access to early warn­ing sys­tems to pro­tect against extreme weather events and cli­mate change impacts.


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