Results published this week, from an international study on the weather in Madagascar, act as a stark warning to us all.
It’s been widely reported Madagascar has been suffering from the first drought to be attributed directly to climate change. Already listed by the World Bank as the poorest country in the world the drought has led to a hunger crisis and famine on the island.
It’s often easy to dismiss heat-related weather phenomena as ‘just random hot spells’ when rain does arrive, but as the heavens opened in Madagascar, far from relieving things, they actually made the problem worse, as Lisa from UK based charity SEED Madagascar explains…
With the rains finally arriving after the recent drought, families unable to plant for the previous harvests quickly went out into their rice paddies and fields to plant crops. However, early hopes were quickly quashed as drought turned to floods as four cyclones devastated communities across the south. Where fields and paddies had been turned into dry, cracked plains by the drought, they now turned into flood plains. Those families who had planted cassava and rice watched as the winds uprooted the young plants, and fields once again became bear – this time not through the dry drought, but through rain and floods. This is devastating for families where children are already malnourished, and families are reliant on food distributions. In SEED’s food distribution centres, the cyclones have brought more people in from the neighbouring mountain areas that have fared better during the drought the coast, as hopes of a small harvest were dashed this time not by the sun, but rain.
A study, published this week, has now confirmed that the storms were in fact a direct result of climate change. Scientists from Mozambique, South Africa, Madagascar, New Zealand, India, the Netherlands, France, United States of America, and the United Kingdom collaborated to assess to what extent human-induced climate change altered the likelihood and intensity of the heavy rainfall associated with the cyclones. Dissecting the results, the researchers found
In both cases, the results show that rainfall associated with the storms was made more intense by climate change and that episodes of extreme rainfall such as these have become more frequent.
Far from bringing relief, as all those involved in helping with the hunger crisis had hoped, the rain in Madagascar acts instead as a stark warning to us all as to what the ‘increase in extreme weather events’ we keep being told about actually looks like in real-time…
“It’s devastating to see what’s happening in Madagascar. Everyone was hoping for rain, but after three years of drought the soil was too hard to cope with the heavy rain that arrived, and instead of relief, communities experienced damaging floods. Many people in Madagascar now desperately need our help to survive, but what’s happening on the island should also act as a warning to us all. We’ve all been told that extreme weather events are increasing, but what’s happening in Madagascar is a real-time example of what this could mean for the rest of the planet. It’s ironic that most people in Madagascar contribute very little to climate change themselves, without cars and modern technology, yet they are bearing the brunt of the western nations’ excesses.” – Mark Jacobs, Director at SEED Madagascar.
To find out more about the hunger crisis in Madagascar and how you can help please visit www.madagascar.co.uk