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African Unit 13

Climate Change in Africa

Name: Judith Namanya, Dan Wanyama, Nafiseh Haghtalab, Ida Nadia Djenontin, Thomas Bilintoh, and Leah Mungai

College: Michigan State University

Discipline: Geography, Science

Module Title: “Climate Change in Africa”

Africa Climate Systems

Most of Africa lies between the Tropics of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn and most of the continent is found in the tropical climate around equator, however climate varied from north to south. Climate in Africa is affected by proximity to equator, variable topography, its landform, and its interactions with large bodies of water like Indian Ocean and The Atlantic (See Figure 8 -9). This different types of climate provided very rich and unique biodiversity within the continent.Because of this diversity, scientists usually divide Africa into 5 different regions, Northern, Central, West, East, and Southern Africa. Figure 10 shows the subregions of Africa which is made by the United Nations.

Figure 1: Africa's Climate
(Source: GeoNova)
Figure 2: The amount of mean annual rainfall in Africa
(Source: Atlas: The Climate of Tropical Africa)
Figure 3: United Nations sub regions of Africa
  1. Major climate zones in Africa
    1. East Arica
    2. Horn of Africa
    3. West Africa
    4. South Africa
    5. Central Africa
  2. Rainy seasons in Africa
    1. Bimodal
    2. Unimodal
  3. Influential factors on Africa’s climate
    1. ITCZ
    2. ENSO
    3. SST
    4. MJO
  4. Extreme events in Africa including floods and droughts
    1. Stories behind extreme droughts and floods in Africa
  5. Role of Africa’s climate in global climate change
  6. Future climate scenarios for Africa

Lectures and Discussions used to implement this section:


Suggested student readings

  1. IPCC chapter on Africa:
Africa Biomes

A biome is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as a major type of ecological grouping. These groupings are composed of animals and plants with similar characteristics that make them survive in their respective environment. Examples of biomes include savannah, rain-forest, desert among others. Biomes are influenced by the kind of prevailing climate conditions. For example, most dry and hot places have a desert biome.

There exist many biome classification schemes and the Wikipedia page about biomes discusses some of the attempts.

Because Africa stretches a lot north and southward, from approximately 370N and 340S, (estimated in Google Earth), it has a variant climate which has influenced various biomes. World Wildlife Fund Terrestrial Ecoregions of the World data classifies biomes in Africa as follows;

  1. Tropical/Subtropical biomes - these include grasslands, savannas, grasslands, forests and shrublands most of which stretch both northward and southward from the Equator.
  2. Temperate biomes - Have similar biomes (grasslands, savannas, grasslands, forests and shrublands) but these only cover a very small fraction of the continent, mostly in the northmost part.
  3. Dry biomes - these include desert (the Sahara in the north, and Namib and Kalahari in the south); and Mediterranean (in the northern and southern ‘tips’ of the continent).
  4. Polar/Montane biomes - these include montane grasslands (in parts of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland and a few more places in eastern and western Africa) and tundra (mostly on mountains like Kilimanjaro).
  5. Aquatic biomes - include lakes (e.g. Lake Victoria in East Africa) and mangroves along some coastlines in the east and west.

Below is a map of the biomes, sourced from NASA's Socioeconomic Data and Applications center (SEDAC)

Figure 4: Biomes of Africa
(Source: NASA SEDAC)

Lectures/Discussions used to implement this section


Climate Change Issues in Africa

Despite the fact that Sub Saharan Africa accounts for less than 4 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions, many regions in Africa have experienced erratic climate, leading to severe droughts to extreme flooding events. Impacts are felt in these agrarian economics, disrupt community livelihoods further causing food insecurity, threatening vulnerable populations with malnutrition and disease. Recently climate change has contributed to the root cause of migration of populations to other regions across the globe.

In the early 1990s, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) became the first international environmental treaty to require national greenhouse gas inventories of greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories from developed countries found in the Annex I category “ industrialized countries and economies in transition”, some other nations fall under Annex II and Non Annexed are the developing and least developed nations.

Past and current climate change frameworks are geared to ensure that governments are addressing climate change from business as usual mode to improving pro-humanitarian policies and making equitable tradeoffs for sound international relations.

Lectures/Discussions/Electronic and Audio-Visual Links


Evaluation/testing - Homework activity for student to participate or give feedback on how they understood this section

  1. Divide students into groups and have them role play as climate representatives of different countries and negotiate with a mock UN negotiation framework (see example link here
  2. Students to watch this link and discuss locations that were mentioned in the video with depleted water sources. Offer potential solutions to decrease source water depletion.