Unprecedented West African Heatwave Tied to Climate Change, Study Confirms

Scientists have confirmed that a lethal heatwave which struck West Africa and the Sahel, bringing temperatures above 48C in Mali last month, was made possible by human-induced climate change. The extreme temperatures, which were linked to hundreds of deaths by one Mali hospital, have been significantly intensified by human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels.

The research points to an increase of up to 1.4C above the normal temperature range due to anthropogenic factors. In contrast, a separate study attributes the ongoing drought in Southern Africa primarily to natural phenomena like El Niño, rather than climate change.

The heatwave swept through numerous countries in the Sahel and West Africa in late March and early April, particularly affecting Mali and Burkina Faso. The city of Bamako, Mali’s capital, saw a significant toll, with Gabriel Toure Hospital attributing 102 deaths in the early days of April to the scorching heat. Many of those who died were seniors over 60 years old.

Experts affiliated with the World Weather Attribution group assert that such severe temperatures, both during the day and at night, could not have occurred without the long-term global reliance on coal, oil, gas, and activities like deforestation.

Their analysis indicates that in Mali and Burkina Faso, climate change resulted in temperature increases of up to 1.5C, and even made the nights warmer by approximately 2C above average. Across the entire region, the heatwave’s temperature was elevated by an average of 1.4C due to climate change.

Kiswendsida Guigma, a climate scientist at the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre in Burkina Faso, emphasized the significance of the findings: “For some, a heatwave being 1.4 or 1.5C hotter because of climate change might not sound like a big increase, but the impacts are profound and potentially deadly.”

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