Extreme Temperature Diary- Sunday April 30th, 2023/Main Topic: Carbon Pollution Made East Africa’s Drought 100 Times as Likely, Study Says

The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track planetary extreme, or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials).😉

Main Topic: Carbon Pollution Made East Africa’s Drought 100 Times as Likely, Study Says

Dear Diary. Attribution studies for major weather/climatic events are being produced at a fast and furious pace these days. The last one I reported on concerned the European heatwave and drought from 2022. This year we have a new major study indicating that the current historic Horn of Africa drought would not be occurring, or at least would not be so severe, if it weren’t for climate change.

Across North America and Europe people are able to cope better with the first effects of climate change due to our general wealth, plus nations there are mostly responsible for the climate crisis in the first place. Of course, that’s not the case in eastern Africa where cycles of poverty have persisted for decades. This new attribution study will make it easier for eastern African nations to extract aid from polluters if and when we see lawsuits brought up in international courts. Here the phrase “climate justice” comes to the fore once again.

Here are more details on this study from the New York Times:

Climate Change Made East African Drought 100 Times as Likely, Study Finds – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

Climate Change Made East Africa’s Drought 100 Times as Likely, Study Says

The findings starkly show the misery that the burning of fossil fuels, mostly by rich countries, inflicts on societies that emit almost nothing by comparison.

A water well near the town of Kelafo in Ethiopia, one of the nations hit hardest by the drought.Credit…Eduardo Soteras/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Raymond Zhong

By Raymond Zhong

April 27, 2023

Two and a half years of meager rain have shriveled crops, killed livestock and brought the Horn of Africa, one of the world’s poorest regions, to famine’s brink. Millions of people have faced food and water shortages. Hundreds of thousands have fled their homes, seeking relief. A below-normal forecast for the current rainy season means the suffering could continue.

Human-caused climate change has made droughts of such severity at least 100 times as likely in this part of Africa as they were in the preindustrial era, an international team of scientists said in a study released Thursday. The findings starkly illustrate the misery that the burning of fossil fuels, mostly by wealthy countries, inflicts on societies that emit almost nothing by comparison.

In parts of the nations hit hardest by the drought — Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia — climate hazards have piled on top of political and economic vulnerabilities. The region’s string of weak rainy seasons is now the longest in around 70 years of reliable rainfall records. But according to the study, what has made this drought exceptional isn’t just the poor rain, but the high temperatures that have parched the land.

The study estimated that periods as hot and dry as the recent one now have a roughly 5 percent chance of developing each year in the region — a figure that is poised to rise as the planet continues to warm, said Joyce Kimutai, principal meteorologist at the Kenya Meteorological Department and the study’s lead author. “We’re likely to see the combined effect of low precipitation with temperatures causing really exceptional droughts in this part of the world.”

Climate groups have for years pointed to the calamity in East Africa as evidence of the immense harm inflicted on poor regions by global warming from emissions of heat-trapping gases. The new analysis could give more ammunition to those urging polluter nations to pay for the economic damage attributable to their emissions.

“This vital study shows that climate change is not just something our children need to worry about — it’s already here,” said Mohamed Adow, the director of Power Shift Africa, a think tank in Nairobi, Kenya. “People on the front lines of the climate crisis need, and deserve, financial help to recover and rebuild their lives.”

Dry farmland in southwest Somalia in the fall. The drought may have caused an estimated 43,000 excess deaths in the country last year. Credit…Andrea Bruce for The New York Times

At United Nations climate talks last year in Egypt, diplomats from nearly 200 countries agreed to establish a fund to help vulnerable nations cope with climate disasters.

“Now we must ensure that the fund is made fit for purpose,” said Harjeet Singh, head of political strategy for Climate Action Network International. “This means rich nations and big polluters paying their share to bring the fund to life and to ensure that adequate money reaches those affected on the ground before it is too late.”

In Somalia in particular, the dryness has compounded the instability caused by years of armed conflict. There, the drought may have caused 43,000 excess deaths last year, according to estimates issued last month. Nearly half of these were among children younger than 5.

The new analysis was conducted by Dr. Kimutai and 18 other researchers as part of World Weather Attribution, a scientific collaboration that tries to untangle the influence of human-induced climate change on specific heat waves, floods and other episodes of extreme weather. The study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, though it relies on methods that are widely used and accepted by researchers.

Scientists know that global warming is increasing the average likelihood and severity of certain kinds of wild weather in many regions. But to understand how it has affected a particular one-off event, they need to dig deeper. It’s like smoking and cancer: The two are undeniably linked, but not all smokers develop cancer, and not all cancer patients were smokers. Each person is slightly different, and so is every weather event.

To determine the effects of global warming on individual weather episodes, climate researchers use computer simulations to compare the global climate as it really is — with billions of tons of carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere by humans over decades — and a hypothetical climate without any of those emissions.

The authors of the new study examined the drought in East Africa by looking at data on average rainfall over 24 months and during both of the region’s wet seasons, one between March and May and the other between October and December. Their mathematical models showed that climate change had made springtime rains as weak as the recent ones about twice as likely. The models also showed that climate change was having the opposite effect on the fall rainy seasons, making them wetter. And they indicated no effect on combined rainfall over two-year periods.

Families displaced by the drought, at a camp in Somalia in November. Hundreds of thousands in the Horn of Africa have fled their homes. Credit…Andrea Bruce for The New York Times

A different picture emerged, however, when the researchers looked at both rainfall and evapotranspiration, or how much water leaves the soil because of warm temperatures. Their models showed that global warming had made combinations of high evapotranspiration and poor rainfall as severe as the recent spell at least 100 times as likely as they were before the Industrial Revolution.

Scientists are getting a much better grasp on the atmospheric conditions that lead the rains to fail above the Horn of Africa, and on how global warming might be affecting them.

In recent decades, when the Pacific Ocean has experienced La Niña conditions, the trade winds strengthen and push warm water from the ocean’s eastern end toward its western one. Heat builds up in the western equatorial Pacific around Indonesia, causing moist air to rise from the sea surface and form thunderstorms. This in turn affects the circulation of air above the Indian Ocean, which draws more moisture from the western end of that ocean toward the eastern end and leaves less to fall as rain above the Horn of Africa.

Climate change has been steadily heating up the surface of the western Pacific, which amplifies this sequence of events and increases the odds of poor rains in East Africa during La Niña periods.

Improved scientific understanding has helped forecasters predict the recent weak rainfall in East Africa months in advance, said Chris Funk, a climate scientist and director of the Climate Hazards Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

“That’s light-years ahead of where we were in 2010 or 2016,” he said, referring to years that preceded past droughts in the region.

Policymakers in East Africa need to help communities become better equipped to recover from future droughts — for instance, by encouraging the use of drought-tolerant crops and livestock, said Phoebe Wafubwa Shikuku, an adviser in Nairobi with the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies. “Drought will continue to happen,” she said. “Now we have to look at, How do we address the various impacts?”

Drought in the Horn of Africa:

First Official Estimate of Somalia’s Drought Shows 43,000 Dead

March 20, 2023

‘Famine Is at the Door’ in Somalia, U.N. Warns

Sept. 5, 2022

‘We Buried Him and Kept Walking’: Children Die as Somalis Flee Hunger

June 11, 2022

Trapped Between Extremists and Extreme Weather, Somalis Brace for Famine

Nov. 21, 2022

Hotter, Drier, Hungrier: How Global Warming Punishes the World’s Poorest

March 12, 2018

Raymond Zhong is a climate reporter. He joined The Times in 2017 and was part of the team that won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in public service for coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. @zhonggg

A version of this article appears in print on April 27, 2023, Section A, Page 11 of the New York edition with the headline: Effects of Climate Change Intensify in Parched East Africa, Study Finds. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

Here are some “ET’s” recorded from around the planet the last couple of days, their consequences, and some extreme temperature outlooks, as well as any extreme precipitation reports:

Here is more climate and weather news from Sunday:

(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article. The most noteworthy items will be listed first.)

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Guy Walton… “The Climate Guy”

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