World Earth Day celebrated in unprecedented heatwave in Sahel

Published on 24/04/2024 | La rédaction

Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger

As the world celebrated Earth Day on April 22, 2024, people in Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali were living in extreme heat, with the mercury reaching 42°C in the city of Niamey. Yet the Sahel came close to the worst at the end of Ramadan. Scientists believe that this situation, which is set to intensify over the next few years, is linked to climate change.

With 42°C recorded in places in August 2023, Météo France estimated that it was the4th hottest summer ever recorded in France. A logical explanation when you live in a temperate climate zone. However, it's an almost normal temperature at the moment in the Sahel, mainly in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, even if experts consider it to be no more and no less than a heatwave. But people in this part of West Africa have had it worse in recent weeks.

Between the end of March and the beginning of April 2024, the Sahel experienced extreme heat, with maximum temperatures of over 45°C and minimum temperatures of 32°C in Burkina Faso, according to the Agence nationale de la météorologie (Anam). In Mali, the town of Kayes even recorded a record temperature of 48.5°C on April 3, 2024. This unprecedented rise in mercury has had serious health repercussions, particularly in Mali.

Deaths in Mali

According to the international scientific network World Weather Attribution (WWA), based on media sources, "an increase in hospital admissions hospital admissions and deaths was reported at the Gabriel Touré University Hospital in Bamako, Mali, between April1 and 4. The hospital recorded 102 deaths over the four-day period, significantly more than expected.seen - in April 2023, the hospital recorded 130 deaths over the whole month".

In addition, "although statistics on the cause of death have not been released, approximately half of those involved were over 60, and the hospital indicates that heat probably played a role in many of these deaths. In addition, 44 bodies were buried in a Bamako cemetery on Friday, April 5, after the weekly service," reads the hospital's analysis published on April 18, 2024.

A manifestation of climate change

For scientists, this unprecedented heatwave, which is also affecting Senegal, Guinea, Nigeria and Chad, is attributable to climate change. "To estimate the influence that human-induced climate change has had on extreme heat since the climate was 1.2°C cooler, we combine climate models and observations. Both observations and models show that heat waves of the magnitude observed in March and April 2024 in the region could not have occurred without the 1.2°C global warming to date," analyzes the WWA.

Such extreme weather events "will continue with future warming. Over Mali and Burkina Faso, a heat wave like the one observed would be 1°C warmer in a world that is 0.8°C warmer (2°C global warming since pre-industrial times). An event of the same magnitude as that observed in 2024 would then no longer be very rare, but would occur 10 times more often than in today's climate", predict the WWA scientists.

What are the immediate solutions?

In the cities of the Sahel and beyond, extreme heat is exacerbated by rapid urbanization and the loss of green spaces. The absence of vegetation encourages the formation of urban heat islands in cities such as Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso and Bamako in Mali. In addition to planting trees, sustainable urban planning will require the design of buildings to take account of high temperatures.

At the same time, it will be necessary to reinforce the electrical systems that failed during the great heatwave at the beginning of April, particularly in Mali, where load shedding intensified. in Mali, where load shedding has intensified, partly due to the debt crisis at state-owned Electricité du Mali (EDM). In an emergency, Mali turned last week to its neighbor Niger, which promised to supply 150 million liters of diesel at the competitive price of 328 CFA francs per liter (0.5 euros) over twelve months. This fossil fuel will power Malian thermal power stations to meet electricity demand in the capital Bamako and other major cities.


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