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Africa’s Sahel Can Expect More Deadly Heat Waves, Study Shows - BLOOMBERG

APRIL 18, 2024

BY  Yinka IbukunBloomberg News

Source: World Weather Attribution

Source: World Weather Attribution , Source: Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- Climate change contributed to an unusually intense heat wave that hit West Africa’s Sahel region this month, with numerous deaths reported in at least two countries, according to a study by the World Weather Attribution.

“The burning of fossil fuels is playing a huge role” for the Sahel’s prolonged intense heat, said Friederike Otto, a senior lecturer in climate science at Imperial College London, who contributed to the study. With continued global warming, events like these will become more common, she said.

The most severe heat was recorded on April 3, with temperatures rising to 48.5°C in the town of Kayes in Mali, the WWA reported. 

“What is unusual for heat waves in an Africa country is that we have reports about mortality already now for this specific event,” Otto said.

In Bamako, Mali’s capital, the Gabriel-Toure Hospital recorded 102 deaths in the first four days of April, compared with 130 deaths during all of last April. In neighboring Burkina Faso, four people a day were reported dead-on-arrival at the capital’s main teaching hospital in the early part of this month, according to local media reports.

The Muslim Ramadan fast made it more difficult for people to cope because they weren’t meant to drink water or other beverages, said Kiswendsida Guigma, a meteorologist at the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, which also participated in the study.

Read more: ‘Hot Continent’ Perception Downplays Africa’s Heat Wave Dangers

The data suggested that climate change made maximum temperatures in Mali and Burkina Faso, where the heat was the most extreme, 1.5 degrees hotter and the amount of days for which they stayed unusually high made it a one-in-200 year event, according to the WWA statement published Thursday. 

In the broader Sahel region, maximum temperatures were slightly lower on average, representing a one-in-30 year event. The group said it used peer-reviewed methodologies to reach the conclusion, though the study itself wasn’t peer-reviewed.

The El Niño weather phenomenon wasn’t the main cause of the Sahelian heat, the way it was in the case of a drought that hit southern Africa in February, according to the scientists.


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