RESEARCH: Soils in the Horn of Africa are historically dry due to global warming |  Science and the planet

RESEARCH: Soils in the Horn of Africa are historically dry due to global warming | Science and the planet

The historic drought in northeastern Africa is a combination of poor rain and high temperatures that would not have occurred without the impact of human greenhouse gas emissions. This is according to a study published today.

Human-induced climate change is making the risk of agricultural drought in the Horn of Africa 100 times greater than before, according to the World Weather Referral Group (WWA). This is a global network of scientists looking at possible links between extreme weather and climate change.

severe dehydration

Since the end of 2020, the countries of the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Djibouti, Kenya and Sudan) have been experiencing the worst drought in 40 years. Over the course of five consecutive rainy seasons, millions of cattle have been killed and crops destroyed. According to the United Nations, 22 million people are threatened with hunger in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.


evaporation

One of the 19 scientists involved in the research is Dutchman Gerbrand Koren of Utrecht University. Two different conclusions were drawn in the authoritative study: Climate change had little effect on recent annual precipitation in the region. But it has an unprecedented effect on the rise in temperature in the region.

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quotes

If it rains on such barren soil, you have the problem that the soil no longer absorbs the water and it gets washed away, which in turn increases the dryness.

Gerbrand Koren, Utrecht University

Corinne: “As a result, there’s a huge amount of evaporation that’s driven by the temperature of the atmosphere. The rain there evaporates faster. The result is you get very dry soil there and the plants dry out. And if it rains on such barren soil, you have the problem that the soil hasn’t The longer the water is absorbed and washed away, which in turn promotes dehydration.”

Boys carry water bottles after a picnic to a well outside their village of Ntabasi in Kenya.
Boys carry water bottles after a picnic to a well outside their village of Ntabasi in Kenya. ©AP

problem

The research academy is conducted in the event of major climatic anomalies such as prolonged droughts, floods or heat waves. “Triggers,” according to Coren, can cause enormous misery: think famine, migration, but also conflicts in an already volatile part of Africa. Armed uprisings broke out in almost all of the countries mentioned, which can often be traced back to poor harvests and food shortages.

“We don’t investigate every wildfire, drought or heat wave, but if it meets certain criteria and, for example, there were many casualties, we look for the causes. Then other researchers will take over who can focus specifically on adaptation.” .

In Somalia, entire villages are moving out of dry areas.
In Somalia, entire villages are moving out of dry areas. ©AP

What kind of adaptation should you consider here? Corinne: “It’s not my specialty, but there are many ways to do something about drying out the soil. It can be done at the local level, which is why we always work with local researchers at the Academy. Because a lot of people depend on their crops; if it becomes unlivable there, The chance of large migratory flows increases.”

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The applied methods of research have been tested in professional journals by scholars around the world. Scientists concluded that climate change was a necessary condition for such severe droughts to occur.

Cow carcasses at the Kura Kalesha camp in Ethiopia for people displaced by drought.
Cow carcasses at the Kura Kalesha camp in Ethiopia for people displaced by drought. © Reuters

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