No respite: Heavy rainfall across Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and Somalia has led to massive floods and several deaths | Photo: Al Jazeera

Incessant rain, massive flooding kill hundreds in East Africa

Heavy rainfall across eastern Africa – Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and Somalia – has caused massive flooding and resulted in hundreds of deaths. At least 8,000 acres of crops have also been destroyed as a result of incessant rainfall since April. Landslides have also caused major damage.

The UN has already warned that a massive locust invasion coupled by the coronavirus outbreak could cause a famine of ‘biblical proportions’. More than 2,000 people have already died of the virus, while a second wave of locusts threatens the country’s food security.

A third of human population will be forced to live beyond ‘climate niche’ by 2070: Study

Climatic conditions in which human life has thrived have remained largely unchanged for thousands of years – a majority live in places where the mean annual temperature (MAT) is about 11-15°C, while a smaller population lives in areas where the average temperature is between 20-25°C. This comfort zone is called the ‘climate niche’. A new study, however, warns that global warming could change this status quo in the next 50 years.

Research by scientists from China, USA and Europe published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed that if global greenhouse gas emissions are not kept in check, parts of the planet, home to one-thirds of the human population, will become as hot as the hottest parts of the Sahara by 2070.

Another study concluded that such potentially fatal combinations of heat and humidity are already appearing in parts of the world – including Asia, Africa, Australia, South America and North America. The study says while the outbreaks have been largely localised and lasted just for a few hours, there has been an increase in frequency and intensity.  

Cold air rises in tropical climate, decreases climate warming impact: Study

Warm air rises and cold air sinks – this is what conventional knowledge tells us. But a new study conducted by the University of California, Davis, found that in the tropics, cold air, in fact, rises. This is primarily because of an overlooked effect, which is the lightness of water vapour.

According to the researchers, water vapour has a buoyancy effect, which helps release the heat in the atmosphere into space, thereby decreasing the levels of warming. They believe without water vapour, warming would be much worse in the tropics. This stabilizing role that water vapour plays should be studied further to improve climate models, the researchers concluded.

Harmful algae blooms in Arabian Sea fuelled by melting Himalayan snowcaps: Study

Loss of snow in the Himalayan-Tibetan plateau region is warming the surface of the Arabian Sea and leading to the spread of green algae blooms that are so big, they can be seen from space, a new study found. Published in the journal Nature, the study made the conclusion based on images released by NASA, which show blooms of Noctiluca scintillans, also known as ‘sea sparkle’, line the coastlines around India and Pakistan, among other nations surrounding the Arabian Sea.

While these blooms are non-toxic, they can kill fish by exacerbating oxygen deficiency and by ammonification of seawater, according to the study. This could threaten regional fisheries and the well-being of coastal populations, which depend on the Arabian Sea for sustenance, the study stated.    

Indian Ocean El Nino likely to reawaken with climate change

Global warming could reawaken an old climate pattern in the Indian Ocean similar to the El Nino, a new study found. If this happens, expect floods, storms and droughts to not only become worse, but also more frequent, the study led by scientists from the University of Texas stated. If current trends continue, the Indian Ocean El Nino could emerge by 2050, according to the researchers.     

Frozen carbon over Tibetan Plateau at risk due to permafrost thawing: Study

The loss of carbon because of global-warming induced permafrost thawing over the Tibetan Plateau could turn the region from a net carbon sink to a net source, according to a new study published in the journal Science Advances. If warming continues at the current rate, the region would see a 1.86 billion tonnes or 3.80 billion tonnes of permafrost thaw by 2100, under the RCP4.5 and RCP8.5 emissions scenarios. The researchers stated their aim is to highlight the importance of deep permafrost thawing – a factor that is largely ignored in current Earth system models.

Earth losing its forest area at a slower pace, but it’s still not slow enough: UN

The rate at which earth has lost forest area has slowed down in recent years, according to new United Nations (UN) data. Numbers for the past three decades show that Earth lost 7.8 million hectares of forest area per year between 1990 and 2000. This number dropped to 5.2 million per year from 2000 to 2010 and 4.7 million from 2010 to 2020.

This drop could be attributed to slower deforestation, forest planting and natural forest expansion. But the UN warned these numbers still fall severely short of set environmental goals. For example, under the UN sustainable development goals, deforestation was to have halted by 2020. But, instead, while deforestation has been declining, the rate of the decline has been slowing down, according to the UN.