Africa could face five times as many heat waves by mid-century in a 3.0°C global warming scenario, according to a new modelling study by Climate Service Center Germany that underscores the importance of striving toward the 1.5°C long-term target in the Paris agreement.
Even with 1.5°C average global warming, the annual number of heat waves doubles by mid-century, leading to increased risk of death in urban centres and crop failures in rural areas, lead author Dr. Torsten Weber told Carbon Brief. He said the region would likely see an increase in the number of long, hot nights that are “known to exacerbate respiratory and other existing health problems, and have previously been linked to increased death rates.”
Weber’s team found that while “under 1.5°C of warming, the African continent could experience an additional 20 to 150 hot nights each year,” with “3.0°C of warming, many parts of Africa could face an additional 300 nights where temperatures are in the top 10% of the historical average.”
The data also indicate that the higher the temperature, the greater the spread of suffering. Whereas 1.5°C degrees of warming will make for more suffocating nights at the Equator, Weber said, “in the 3.0°C scenario, many other countries, including South Africa, could be affected.”
The study also produced somewhat less certain conclusions for rainfall intensity, with coastal countries like Madagascar, the Ivory Coast, and Ghana seeing the greatest impacts. The 3.0°C warming scenario could translate into moderate increases in intense rainfall events in the Central African Republic, while Morocco and South Africa become ever drier.