Environmental scientists have warned that the Sahel region, one of Africa’s driest regions, could turn greener if the current rate of global warming increases by 2 degrees Celsius.
Such an increase, the scientists from Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) say, could trigger more frequent heavy rainfall in the Sahel, which has been experiencing extreme weather conditions, including frequent droughts in recent years.
“The sheer size of the possible change is mindboggling – this is one of the very few elements in the Earth system that we might witness tipping soon,” co-author Anders Levermann from PIK and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of New York’s Columbia University was quoted by VOA News.
The Sahel region, which stretches coast to coast from Mauritania and Mali in the west to Sudan and Eritrea in the east, and skirts the southern edge of the Sahara Desert, is home to more than 100 million people.
According to the researchers, some weather patterns predict a slight increase in rainfall for the Sahel, but there are signs that the entire weather model will change by the end of the century.
While global warming is generally considered dangerous to the environment, the Sahel region and other dry areas stand to benefit from it as increased rainfall will mean more water for agriculture, industry and domestic use.
But the scientists have cautioned that people in these areas are likely to experience very unpredictable weather changes, including extreme droughts followed by destructive floods, in the first few years of the transition.
“The enormous change that we might see would clearly pose a huge adaptation challenge to the Sahel,” said Levermann, adding that this volatility makes it hard for people to plan for the looming changes.
The research involved an extensive study of rainfall patterns in the months of July, August and September when the region receives most of its annual rain.
Currently, devastating effects of climate change are being felt across Africa, with some studies showing that the change in temperature has completely altered livelihoods, water availability, food productivity, health and overall security of the African people.
The Climate Change Vulnerability Index for 2015 showed that seven of the top ten countries facing the greatest threat from climate change are in Africa.
Experts claim that the number of weather related calamities, such as drought, famine, and floods in Africa has doubled over the last two decades, resulting in a drastic increase in deaths from drought.