Heatwave in West Africa’s Sahel Region Causes Concern

Heatwave in West Africa's Sahel Region Causes Concern

The March-April 2024 heatwave in the Sahel and West Africa set record temperatures, emphasizing human-caused climate change’s impact.

With temperatures soaring above 45°C in the Sahel and reaching 48.5°C in certain areas, this heatwave posed serious health risks and exacerbated food insecurity and water scarcity issues.

This heatwave highlights the urgent need for climate action and adaptation in vulnerable regions like West Africa.

The deadly heatwave in the Sahel and West Africa in 2024 was found to be a result of human-caused climate change, according to the World Weather Attribution (WWA) study. 

The extreme temperatures observed would have been “impossible” without the global warming of 1.2°C due to human activities. 

WWA’s analysis suggested that in a pre-industrial climate without human influence, the 5-day maximum temperatures in the intense heat areas of Mali and Burkina Faso would have been 1.5°C cooler.

For the larger Sahel region, the extreme 5-day maximum heat would have been 1.4°C cooler. The study also found that the minimum nighttime temperatures over Mali and Burkina Faso would have been 2°C cooler without human-caused warming. 

The heatwave was classified as a once-in-a-200-year event in Burkina Faso and Mali. For the broader Sahel region, it was a once-in-30-year event, underscoring the extreme temperatures compared to historical records.

The human toll of the heatwave was devastating, with a surge in heat-related deaths and hospitalizations reported across the region. 

Mali’s Gabriel Touré Hospital in Bamako recorded 102 deaths over just the first four days of April, compared to 130 deaths for the entire month of April the previous year. 

The heatwave coincided with the holy month of Ramadan, when many Muslims were fasting and thus more vulnerable to the extreme temperatures.

 Power outages in the region also made it difficult for people to access cooling relief, exacerbating the impacts on the highly vulnerable populations in the Sahel.

The Sahel region’s residents lack reliable access to electricity, cooling devices, and clean drinking water, leaving many, especially the elderly, highly vulnerable to extreme heat.

Rapid urbanization has also worsened the situation, with cities experiencing higher temperatures than surrounding rural areas, impacting the urban poor who often lack access to cooling measures.

This disparity underscores the unequal impact of climate change, as countries like Burkina Faso and Mali, which contribute minimally to global greenhouse gas emissions, suffer the most.

 In contrast, the average North American emits 11 times more energy-related CO2 than the average African. 

Despite their minimal contribution to emissions, the Sahel region is facing the worst consequences of climate change driven by wealthier nations.

 By 2080, Burkina Faso and Mali could become nearly uninhabitable if temperatures continue to rise at the current pace.

 This highlights the urgent need for the global community to support these vulnerable countries facing the devastating impacts of a crisis they played little part in creating.

The dire warnings from the World Weather Attribution (WWA) study underscore the future outlook for the Sahel region if global warming continues unabated.

They warned that a 2°C global warming, expected by the 2040s or 2050s without rapid emission reductions, would lead to extreme heat waves occurring 10 times more frequently in the region.


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This highlights the urgent need for immediate and drastic action by the global community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the worst impacts of climate change.

 Countries like Burkina Faso and Mali, which have contributed minimally to the emissions driving this crisis, are now bearing the brunt of its devastating consequences.

Without a focused effort to move away from fossil fuels and adopt strong climate adaptation measures, the Sahel region’s future looks grim.

Burkina Faso and Mali are projected to be almost uninhabitable for humans by 2080 if current warming trends continue. Get to see which countries are most affected by heat here.

Immediate action is required to support vulnerable populations, bolster critical infrastructure, and enhance resilience against the escalating frequency and severity of extreme heat events due to human-induced climate change.

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