Africa is likely to face more frequent and intense weather extremes, including both flooding and more damaging droughts, according to new research. The study predicts that over the next 80 years, Africa will see intense rainfall and resulting floods, alongside equally severe droughts. Both threaten to disrupt agriculture and food production, according to The Guardian.
The study was conducted by researchers at the Met Office, the UK’s national weather service, and the Institute of Climate and Atmospheric Science at Leeds University. It was funded by UK foreign aid.
Using highly detailed analysis of weather patterns, the research analyzed how anticipated temperature increases will affect rainfall in Africa.
“Essentially we have found that both ends of Africa’s weather extremes will get more severe. The wet extreme will get worse, but also the appearance of dry spells during the growing season will also get more severe,” according to Met Office climate scientist Elizabeth Kendon.
Those rising temperatures stem from carbon emissions as a result of human activity. The world is now seeing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that are unprecedented in humanity’s time on Earth. In May, carbon dioxide reached 415 parts per million, with increases expected to continue over the next decades.
The study predicts that western and central Africa will see the most severe impacts on extreme weather. Many countries in this region, such as Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, are also on track to see a sharp rise in population during the same period. Researchers predict that weather changes will include both severe floods and more frequent instances of droughts lasting more than ten days, during vulnerable points in the crop growing season.
“We have been able to model – in much finer detail than was previously possible – the manner in which rainfall patterns will change over Africa,” Kendon said.
In certain regions, the same intense rainfalls that were expected every thirty years could come as often as every three to four years, the says the study, published in the journal Nature Communications.
“Africa is one of the parts of the planet that is going to be most vulnerable to climate change,” said Kendon. “Our study of rainfall patterns shows there are going to be some very severe problems to face food security and dealing with droughts.”