Early Warnings Crucial in Mitigating the Impacts of Weather Disasters

By Gift Briton

Human induced climate change fueled the intensity and frequency of heavy rainfall experienced in Southeast Africa early this year, according to a new rapid attribution analysis by World Weather Attribution.

Between January and March (within six weeks), three tropical cyclones and two tropical storms hit Madagascar, Malawi and Mozambique affecting more than one million people with 230 lives sadly lost.

According to the analysis, the extreme rainfall associated with storms experienced in these countries was made more intense and frequent due to climate change caused by emission of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. These emissions make the atmosphere to become warmer and accumulates more water thereby increasing the risk of downpours.

Though Southeast Africa, including Madagascar, Malawi and Mozambique, already are hotspot for tropical storms and cyclones, the scientists state that with climate change, these extreme weather events will become even more intense and destructive.

Therefore, it is urgent to put in place measures to reduce vulnerability and adverse socio-economic impacts in the region, and reduce carbon emissions in the most polluting countries.

“While our analysis clearly shows that climate change made the storms more damaging, our ability to establish precisely by how much was hampered by inconsistent data and lack of weather observations. This would also help to improve forecasts of extreme weather events and their impacts,” Dr. Sarah Kew, Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, said.

In order to prepare vulnerable people and put up infrastructure to better cope with these events, Dr. Kew notes that it is crucial to strengthen scientific resources in Africa and other parts of the global South to enable the local scientists to better understand extreme weather events fueled by climate change.

Additionally, since these extreme events can happen across borders, there is need for regional coordination between scientists and governments to provide community-based early warning services and systems. The Mozambique government for instance, has put in place plans to champion early warning systems to the local people to help them take preventive measures.

According to Dr. Kew, early warning and evacuation systems is really effective in reducing the number of people whose lives are lost during extreme weather events.

She adds that to ensure that they have effective early warning systems in place, governments should have stronger scientific systems in place, they should ensure that people know what to do when there is a warning as well as to ensure that there is trust in the early warning systems by the people.

In addition, when building infrastructure such as roads and bridges, engineers need to take into account the fact that rainfall are going to be heavier and more frequent than in the past.

Dr. Izidine Pinto, Climate System Analysis Group, University of Cape Town who took part in the analysis, point out that in order for infrastructure and early warning systems to work, there is need to have strong institutions and education system in place. He said that governments should build institutions and put up education systems where people are taught the importance of taking into account climate change mitigation in all their decisions.

According to Dr. Pinto, concerted efforts from the global community to make sure that people are not increasing greenhouse gas emission any further as well as collaboration among scientists in the region will further increase the output in science.

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