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Sahara climate change threatens region

Changing Climate on the Sahara brings flooding in countries along Southern Border, with more torrential rains in the forecast...satellite images reveal the view from space

Eden Watch

Tracking the progress of Climate Change on the Sahara
Changing Climate on the Sahara brings flooding in countries along Southern Border



Sahara November 2000 (left), September 2003 (right)

The images above show dramatic darkening, pushing northward, along the southern edge of the Sahara, the result of exceptionally heavy rains this summer. The same rains that have pushed back the desert region in the South was also responsible for the heat wave in Europe as the hot, dry air of a Sahara summer was pushed north into Europe.

Hundreds of mud brick structures in Timbuktu, a Unesco Heritage site on the Sahara, have been melted by this years torrential rains in the area, including some structures as much as 600 years old. Because Timbuktu does not have a drainage system, even more modern structures have collapsed when their foundations sunk into the muck. The Niger river is less than an inch below flood stage, and millions of people who live along its banks are being warned to move to higher ground as more heavy rains are in the forecast for the region. The Niger is currently experiencing a flow of eight times as much water as is typical for the rainy season. Flooding is taking places in countries all along the Southern borders of the Sahara region, including Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal, and the flooding of the Niger and exceptionally heavy rains along the border regions of the Sahara have caused flooding further south in Nigeria, which has affected close to one hundred thousand people so far, with further torrential rains in the forecast. Bomako, the capital of Mali, has been flooded, leaving about 10,000 people homeless, and thousands of others have lost crops around the region, according to the Red Cross and other agencies providing relief efforts. With more heavy rains coming, there is the possibility of further crop damage for the millions who live along the banks of the swollen rivers, should they burst their banks.

external links...
BBC reports on the disaster in timbuktu
MSNBC reports on the rising Niger river
AlertNet reports on the humanitarian crisis

links to other environmental stories...


America's Unhealthy Forests

... the entire western forests of America look like an ugly scab on the planet in a view from outer space...the various drought graphic indicators reveal a disaster in the making

Sahara moves into Europe ... some satellite picks of some of the monsoon conditions that pushed the scorching heat of a summer on the Sahara north into Europe...

unhealthy trees 10.Sep.2003 10:52


Back during the Clinton administration I noticed the deterioration of America's forests. I was told, 'oh this things come and go." Some time went by. I noticed the same pattern. I was told, 'oh its just El Nino. Once that thing is gone everything will be fine." Some time went by. I was then told 'now its El Nina. Give it some time." Well now some more time has gone by, and its coming up to the close of the Bush administration, there's no El Nino, no El Nina, no Clinton, and suddenly trees are at the top of the National Agenda.

That took a hell of a long time.

You know back in those earlier days I used to pester the Clinton White House with my 'bald eagle' apocalyptic metaphor, and I was brooding about that 'El Nino' crap last night, and I couldn't help thinking about how appropriate that 'Bald Eagle' speech still seems today, after all these years have gone by, and so I reproduce the speech as I recall it ...

I used to refer to America the humiliated, standing in front of the whole world, with their rocky mountains burned as bald as an eagle. Well how embarrassing it would be for that bald headed eagle, with its featherless head burned bald, and its rocky mountains resembling those scorched mountains out in the Sahara, while billows of smoke roll down over California, and roll down over the plains. Why even bother trying to fight the fires in that inferno, I used to say. Just stand back and watch it burn, watch it burn. The sun will be turned to darkness in broad daylight, and the moon will glow blood red, and there will blood, and fire, and a pillar of smoke from that great burnt offering in the mountains...

As I said, it was an apocalyptic poem, and for what its worth, the above is how I remember that thing going...of course, what with that 'just being natural' and then El Nino, and then El Nina, well everyone thought I was nuts.

One thing I have been thinking about lately is just how bloody inaccurate those climate predicting computers really are, because you know, they give everyone a false sense of security, what with the way they are programmed so damned conservatively those things (don't want to ridicule climate science so they program conservatively). The end result is that computer comes back after processing for weeks or even months to report that you have until the year 2050 or 2100, and here it turns out that if those were programmed right they would return the answer that you are already fucked since global warming has been going on for years...but isn't that just the way things work...just thought I would remind people that those forests have been going down the crapper for a long, long time, and now, when you look down from space you can see that very noticeable developing scab on the continent, about what you'd expect after all the hell those trees have been through over the last decade or so...

image for feature 10.Sep.2003 13:23


good story

Global Warming 10.Sep.2003 14:56


People get in the habit of thinking that whatever is going on now has always been and will always be.

Underlying the Sahara is quite a lot of water-- thats what the oases are all about. At one time, maybe up to 12,000 years ago, it was well watered, the Arabian peninsula was a savannah with human cities, and the Cedars of Lebanon really were a forest.

Some of the loss is human activity, some of it is natural climate change. Either way, individual humans can't do much-- just have to adapt.

Tom- 10.Sep.2003 15:32


Tom- there is plenty people can do to prevent climate change- they just aren't doing it! Like driving an SUV is a necessity- come on!

'Natural' climate change 10.Sep.2003 15:38


I was pondering the post above, and it seems very fatalistic
we have come full circle, then, and are back at the business about 'natural' climate change
that was what I was first told about those forests...that was just a 'natural cycle' then it was el nino then that la nina
I was wondering what next, and I am waiting to see what it will be, but perhaps the above post is an indication of what to expect

its just natural

now I thought I would mention that 'natural climate change' (and there is such a thing) is tied to
can you guess
the carbon cycle

for example, the oceans sink a tiny percentage of carbon dioxide every year
most of the co2 on earth is trapped in sedimentary rocks at the bottom of the ocean (as well as those which are currenly at the surface and weathering and releasing co2 due to heaving of the earth over time and weathering effects)
now when the ocean sinks to much co2 you get an ice age
that's natural
the ocean surface freezes over and the ocean loses its ability to sink co2
then as time goes by, co2 builds in the atmosphere
the ocean surface melts
the ice age ends
and the process starts again
so the critical factor in what is known as natural climate change is


just in case any one is following the argument here, that happens to be the gas we are pumping into the air at a high rate of speed, much faster than the ocean can sink co2, so rather than an ice age we can expect global warming

and keep in mind that the co2 cycle is SLOW. it operates over epochs, not in ten twenty or thirty years

now let's examine the pattern here
we have record breaking tornadoes in America this summer
the American forests are now suddenly a top item on the agenda, right up there with the Iraq war, for obvious reasons
the deserts of china are getting flooded
India missed last years monsoon
the sahara is in retreat
Europe was the Sahara this summer

can anyone think of any other climatic variations to add to the list

so then if the current trends continue this is what climate change means
the Sahara, which was an Eden 6,000 years ago, when there was more co2 (remember the ocean was sinking co2 all the time) goes back to what it was 6,000 years ago when there was more co2, which means that it is lush
furthermore, the Sahara does not take centuries to go back to what it was, it does it at top speed, and the explanation is CO2, and a hell of a lot of co2 as well, you know to speed up a process that would normally take centuries, and is now taking place rapidly (because the co2 cycle is very sensitive to changes)
now perhaps europe becomes a sahara, certainly it will be hotter than hell in europe during the summer
america becomes at least 50 desert, in otherwords, the sahara crosses the ocean and lands where America's forests used to be
the deserts of china bloom
hopefully India won't start missing monsoons on a regular basis, because they count on those

it will be very interesting to watch this extremely rapid climate change while people try to go full circle and talk about 'natural climate change' when, in fact, natural climate change is based entirely on the co2 cycle

judged by what is happening on the sahara, the amount of co2 pumped into the atmosphere at the present time is enough to turn back the clock 6,000 years (at least) and that being the case, there is no way that is natural, but is the human effect

tornadoes 10.Sep.2003 16:51


i forgot to mention the tornadoes
every summer the Americans will just be scared shitless by all those wild tornadoes
and just try to get tornadoe insurance
well it will be just about impossible, it will cost a fortune to get insured for a tornadoe in america

and then of course there is that whole business about what the americans are doing in Iraq, you know oil, that light sweet iraqi crude, the most profitable oil in the whole world...pumped out of the ground at the cost of only one dollar a barrel (due to a freak of nature) and then sold for 25 or 30 bucks a barrel...thankfully the so called 'governing council of Iraq' voted to privatize the whole oil industry so start counting those big bucks right...as well that light sweet iraqi crude oil is also cheap to refine into gas so there are big profits at the end of the process as well

what will be real interesting is watching this rapid climate change taking place while Americans get bombarded with oil industry propaganda about how natural it is for the climate to change,
that'll be real interesting
unless someone can think up a better excuse
look the post has only been up for half a day and so far the only excuse has been the one about how the climate always changes naturally, which is true, however usually you don't find yourself rapidly travelling back centuries in time in the course of few months and years...that wouldn't be natural

but like I said maybe someone can think up a better excuse and I am waiting with great curiousity to find out just what that might turn out to be

Dr Theodor Landscheidt 10.Sep.2003 18:03


Dr Theodor Landscheidt is understandably, a real favorite of all those people who don't like to think about global warming (probably because it means that they can't drive their SUVs the way they want, being free Americans and everything)
but to put aside the sarcasm
according to Landscheidt the variations of energy from the sun can explain weather anomalies, and this could very well be a valid point

however, let's keep in mind here that we are not talking about weather anomalies here
we are talking about CLIMATE CHANGE
for example we know that the predictable variations of the sun's energy output continue to take place during say, um, an ice age

it is obvious when you consider that the climate changes in spite of these variations in energy output of the sun that the carbon cycle is the controlling factor in climate change, not the sun and its regular variations in output...that changes in the suns output match up with el nino is interesting science, but it is being abused and misused when its dragged into the debate about global climate change