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Saint Louis, Senegal, Sahel region Alamy Stock Photo
heating up

'Human-induced' climate change behind deadly Sahel heatwave, study finds

West African nations experienced an exceptional heatwave from 1 April until 5 April, with temperatures above 45 degrees.

THE DEADLY HEATWAVE that hit Africa’s Sahel region in early April would not have occurred without “human-induced” climate change, according to a study by the World Weather Attribution (WWA) group.

The West African nations of Mali and Burkina Faso experienced an exceptional heatwave from 1 April until 5 April, with soaring temperatures above 45 degrees Celsius triggering a large number of deaths.

Observations and climate models used by researchers at the WWA showed that “heatwaves with the magnitude observed in March and April 2024 in the region would have been impossible to occur without the global warming of 1.2C to date”, which they linked to “human-induced climate change”.

While periods of high temperatures are common in the Sahel at this time of year, the report said that the April heatwave would have been 1.4C cooler “if humans had not warmed the planet by burning fossil fuels”.

It added that the five days of extreme heat was a once-in-a-200-year event, but that “these trends will continue with future warming”.

The length and severity of the extreme heat led to an increase in the number of deaths and hospitalisations in the two countries, despite their populations being acclimatised to high temperatures, the WWA said.

A lack of data in the affected countries made it impossible to know the exact number of deaths, the WWA said, adding there were likely hundreds, if not thousands, of other heat-related casualties.

Countries in the Sahel region have had to contend with drought since the 1970s, as well as periods of intense rainfall from the 1990s.

The dwindling availability of water and pasture, compounded by the development of agricultural land, has disrupted the lives of pastoral populations and encouraged the emergence of armed groups that have extended their hold over vast swathes of territory in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.

© AFP 2024


Unsure of what exactly is happening with the earth’s climate? Check out our new FactCheck Knowledge Bank for essential reads and guides to finding good information online.

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