Human-Caused Climate Change Blamed for Deadly Heatwave in the Sahel

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Climate Change

From April 1st to 5th, Mali and Burkina Faso experienced an unprecedented heatwave, both in duration and intensity, with temperatures exceeding 45°C, leading to numerous fatalities in these countries. According to a study published on Thursday, April 18th, by the World Weather Attribution (WWA) network, this heatwave is linked to human-caused climate change.

Scientists’ observations and comparisons of temperature models “show that heatwaves of the magnitude observed in March and April 2024 in the region would have been impossible” without a global warming of 1.2°C, “caused by humans,” according to the WWA scientists. The report published on Thursday, April 18th, specifies that an episode like the one that affected the Sahel for five days in April typically occurs only “once every 200 years.”

Heatwaves are common in the Sahel during this time of year, but the one that lasted from April 1st to 5th “would have been 1.4°C cooler” in the region “if humans had not caused global warming by burning fossil fuels,” the report authors assure. “These trends will continue with future warming,” they add.

Scientists estimate that such a heatwave in Mali and Burkina Faso would be “1°C hotter in a world warmer by 0.8°C,” and would occur ten times more frequently than in the current climate if global warming reaches 2°C.

Increase in Fatalities

The duration and severity of this heatwave with temperatures exceeding 45°C have led to an increase in recorded fatalities and hospitalizations in these countries, according to WWA, even though Malian and Burkinabe populations “are accustomed to high temperatures.” While it is “impossible” to accurately count the victims due to the lack of available data in the countries concerned, “it is likely that there have been hundreds, if not thousands, of additional heat-related deaths,” WWA indicates.

Soukaina Sghir

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