Rare African Glaciers To Disappear In Two Decades

Earth's glaciers could face a staggering loss of up to 40% of their mass with a 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature increase by the year 2100, according to a new study.

The rare African Glaciers will soon disappear in two decades, signalling the threat of imminent and irreversible change to the Earth system and leading millions of people to poverty, according to a latest report of the World Meteorological Organisation.

The report “The State of the Climate in Africa 2020” reveals that about 118 million extremely poor people will be exposed to drought, floods and extreme heat by 2030. This will hinder progress towards poverty alleviation and growth, the report added.


Only three mountains in Africa — the Mount Kenya massif, the Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda and Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. — are covered by glaciers. Even though the glaciers are too small to act as significant water reservoirs, the UN agency underlined their touristic and scientific importance.

WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas in the foreword said; “During 2020, the climate indicators in Africa were characterized by continued warming temperatures, accelerating sea-level rise, extreme weather and climate events, such as floods, landslides and droughts, and associated devastating impacts. The rapid shrinking of the last remaining glaciers in eastern Africa, which are expected to melt entirely in the near future, signals the threat of imminent and irreversible change to the Earth system.”

Meanwhile, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture African Union Commission Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko said Africa was witnessing increased weather and climate variability, which leads to disasters and disruption of economic, ecological and social systems. “By 2030, it is estimated that up to 118 million extremely poor people (i.e. living on less than US$ 1.90/day) will be exposed to drought, floods and extreme heat in Africa,  if adequate response measures are not put in place. This will place additional burdens on poverty alleviation efforts and significantly hamper growth in prosperity,” said Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko.


Temperatures: The 30-year warming trend for 1991-2020 was higher than for the 1961-1990 period in all African subregions and significantly higher than the trend for 1931-1960. Africa has warmed faster than the global average temperature over land and ocean combined. 2020 ranked between the third and eighth warmest year on record for Africa, depending on the dataset used.

Sea level rise: The rates of sea-level rise along the tropical and South Atlantic coasts and Indian Ocean coast are higher than the global mean rate, at approximately 3.6 mm/yr and 4.1 mm/yr, respectively. Sea levels along the Mediterranean coasts are rising at a rate that is approximately 2.9 mm/yr lower than the global mean.

Glaciers: Presently, only three mountains in Africa are covered by glaciers – the Mount Kenya massif (Kenya), the Rwenzori Mountains (Uganda) and Mount Kilimanjaro (United Republic of Tanzania). Although these glaciers are too small to act as significant water reservoirs, they are of eminent touristic and scientific importance. Their current Vretreat rates are higher than the global average. If this continues, it will lead to total deglaciation by the 2040s.

Mount Kenya is expected to be deglaciated a decade sooner, which will make it one of the first entire mountain ranges to lose glaciers due to human-induced climate change.

Precipitation: Higher-than-normal precipitation – accompanied by flooding – predominated in the Sahel, the Rift Valley, the central Nile catchment and north-eastern Africa, the Kalahari basin and the lower course of the Congo River.

Dry conditions prevailed in the northern coast of the Gulf of Guinca and in north-western Africa and along the southeastern part of the continent. The drought in Madagascar triggered a humanitarian crisis.

High impact events: There was extensive flooding across many parts of East Africa. Countries reporting loss of life or significant displacement of populations included the Sudan, South Sudan Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Chad, Nigeria (which also experienced drought in the southern part), Niger, Benin, Togo, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon and Burkina Faso. Many lakes and rivers reached record high levels, including Lake Victoria (in May) and the Niger River at Niamey and the Blue Nile at Khartoum (in September).

Food Insecurity;  Food insecurity increases by 5–20 percentage points with each flood or drought in sub-Saharan Africa. Associated deterioration in health and in children’s school attendance can worsen longer-term income and gender inequalities. In 2020, there was an almost 40% increase in population affected by food insecurity compared with the previous year.

Displacement: An estimated 12% of all new population displacements worldwide occurred in the East and Horn of Africa region, with over 1.2 million new disaster-related displacements and almost 500 000 new conflict-related displacements. Floods and storms contributed the most to internal disaster-related displacement, followed by droughts.

Investments: In sub-Saharan Africa, adaptation costs are estimated at US$ 30–50 billion (2–3% of regional gross domestic product (GDP)) each year over the next decade, to avoid even higher costs of additional disaster relief. Climate-resilient development in Africa requires investments in hydrometeorological infrastructure and early warning systems to prepare for escalating high-impact hazardous events.

Early warnings: Household surveys by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Ethiopia, Malawi, Mali, the Niger and the United Republic of Tanzania found, among other factors, that broadening access to early warning systems and to information on food prices and weather (even with simple text or voice messages to inform farmers on when to plant, irrigate or fertilize, enabling climate-smart agriculture) has the potential to reduce the chance of food insecurity by 30 percentage points.

Adaptation: Rapid implementation of African adaptation strategies will spur economic development and generate more jobs in support of economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Pursuing the common priorities identified by the African Union Green Recovery Action Plan would facilitate the achievement of the continent’s sustainable and green recovery from the pandemic while also enabling effective climate action.



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