Severe dry conditions in northern Italy resemble the climate in Ethiopia.
Research indicates that the prevalence of extreme drought in northern Italy has increased by twofold in the last twenty years, resulting in a climate that is becoming more similar to that of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa.
Scientists have used satellite imagery and data to study the impact of global warming, and have discovered a phenomenon known as the “whiplash effect”. This effect causes unpredictable extremes in weather patterns. The research, conducted by WaterAid, Cardiff University, and Bristol University, has found that areas that were previously prone to droughts are now experiencing more frequent floods due to extreme climate conditions. On the other hand, regions that were historically known for flooding are now facing more frequent droughts.
The analysis published on Tuesday reveals that the southern Shabelle region of Ethiopia, which previously faced frequent flooding between 1980 and 2000, is now facing a significant shift towards prolonged and severe drought. This shift is also evident in the Shabelle River, a crucial water source for Somalia, which has recently experienced the most severe drought conditions in the Horn of Africa. The research also indicates that northern Italy has seen a similar increase in intense dry spells, with both regions experiencing more than double the number of such periods since 2000.
However, according to researchers, the droughts in both areas are now accompanied by intense rainfall, resulting in destructive flooding. This was observed in the Lombardy area of Italy during the summer season.
The study analyzed the occurrence and severity of floods and droughts from the last 41 years in various areas within six countries: Pakistan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Mozambique. Italy was used as a comparison in Europe.
According to researchers, millions of individuals residing in impoverished regions are enduring the consequences of extreme climate fluctuations, and their communities are often unprepared to handle them.
The leader of WaterAid, Tim Wainwright, stated that the global water crisis is a result of the climate crisis. He also expressed concern about the unpredictable nature of our climate and its destructive effects.
“Various regions in Pakistan, Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Ethiopia are facing extreme climate changes, with some areas suffering from drought while others are flooded. Uganda is also seeing increasingly devastating floods, while Mozambique is dealing with a chaotic combination of both extreme situations.”
The findings were released just before the UN’s Cop28 climate conference, during which the allocation of funds to assist communities in adapting and building resilience to the effects of climate change will once again be discussed.
“It cannot be another summit where the climate adaptation can is kicked down the road,” said Wainwright. “Our leaders must recognise the urgency and prioritise investment into robust and resilient water systems now.”
WaterAid urges global leaders at Cop28 to give utmost importance to clean water, adequate sanitation, and hygiene in their climate adaptation initiatives. Additionally, they are also advocating for increased funding for water security in low and middle-income nations.
The communities that are facing a change in climate resulting in extreme weather conditions are among the most vulnerable and ill-equipped to handle it. In the year 2022, the village of Bachal Bheel located in the Badin region of south-east Pakistan was severely damaged by a disastrous flood that affected two-thirds of the nation.
WaterAid interviewed individuals who had experienced the effects of the flood. Soni Bheel shared that during her childhood, the local agriculture thrived and the villagers were in good health. However, her village was devastated by the flood last year. At 83 years old, she stated, “Our village was completely destroyed by the flood, but it taught us an important lesson: we must construct our homes on higher ground to safeguard them from future floods. We are now raising our houses on a 2-foot-high platform.”
The information indicates that Mbale, a region in eastern Uganda near Mount Elgon, is currently facing significantly higher levels of precipitation, resulting in unprecedented occurrences of flooding for the past three years. WaterAid interviewed Okecho Opondo, a former primary school educator, who stated that the shift in climate patterns has caused major difficulties.
She stated that we are currently experiencing complete chaos. The months that were once known for heavy rainfall are now lacking precipitation. However, when rain does come, it is brief but intense, causing floods. Other times, the rainy season can be prolonged, resulting in damage to buildings and crops. In contrast, the dry spells can also be lengthy, resulting in crop failure and famine.
According to Katerina Michaelides, a professor at the University of Bristol Cabot Institute for the Environment and co-author of the study, climate change will not result in uniform changes. Instead, the potential risks for each area are expected to shift in unforeseeable manners. It is crucial to take these factors into account in order to aid in adapting to the effects of climate change for the well-being and livelihoods of people around the world.