A climate atlas could provide support in adapting to a climate in change in Africa

For several years, researchers from SMHI have been working with African researchers to gather knowledge on climate change in Africa. They now want to develop a climate atlas showing the regional effects of various climate scenarios as a support for important functions in society.

In beginning of November, the climate agreement made at the Paris climate conference (COP 21) came into force, closely followed by the start of COP 22, which will focus on nationally and locally sustainable development. Grigory Nikulin was in Marrakech for the opening of COP 22. He is a researcher at SMHI’s Rossby Centre, which for several years has collaborated with African researchers to disseminate and gather knowledge on climate change and its local effects in Africa.

“Regional climate information for various climate scenarios are highly useful to many actors in society. The work we have initiated together with our African colleagues is important to build up domestic capacity and knowledge about climate change and its effects,” says Grigory Nikulin.

The access to extensive computing resources in the form of advanced mainframe computers is limited in many African countries, however.

“We therefore want to collaborate to construct a climate effect atlas for Africa with a systematic regional analysis on the effects of 1.5, 2 and 4 degrees of global warming based on local needs in order to provide support for the many communities that do not currently have any detailed information about climate developments,” says Grigory Nikulin.

The team that planned the climate effect atlas for Africa
The team that planned the climate effect atlas for Africa. From left: Grigory Nikulin, SMHI, Modathir Zaroug, University of Cape Town, Andreas Haensler, GERICS (Climate Service Center Germany), Christopher Lennard, University of Cape Town and Iréne Lake, SMHI. Enlarge Image

Effects on various sectors of society

The atlas is based on analyses of various climate indicators customised to the local information needs. Examples of areas where documentation is needed include health, water, agriculture, energy and natural disasters.

“We have taken a scientific approach and the entire project matches COP 22’s aim of promoting collaboration with Africa in order to prepare for and adapt to local climate effects. This type of atlas would be of immense value for the communities that are now facing great challenges along with the changing climate,” says Grigory Nikulin.

A few examples were drawn up for Africa within the European project Impact2C, which created a similar atlas showing the effects on Europe of a 2-degree global rise in temperature.

Possible project launch as early as in 2017?

Co-ordinated at the University of Cape Town with support from the SMHI and the Climate Service Centre in Germany, a plan for a climate effect atlas for Africa was developed. The plan was presented at Earth Information Day at COP 22 in Marrakech on Tuesday 8 November 2016. The work on constructing the atlas can begin in 2017 if the necessary funding is secured. The entire atlas could be completed by 2020 and would then constitute an important tool for adaptation to a changed climate in African countries.

The Swedish government has previously contributed special funding for an initiative on climate services in Africa. This initiative has made it possible for SMHI to collaborate with the University of Cape Town on a series of workshops to train African researchers to build up the domestic capacity and knowledge in order to analyse the changing climate and its effects on society.

The work on regional climate change has been conducted within the framework of the international CORDEX collaboration, which is intended to develop detailed regional climate information about all the world’s land areas. CORDEX (Coordinated Regional Climate Downscaling Experiment) is an initiative under the World Climate Research Program, WCRP, and is coordinated by the International Project Office for CORDEX at SMHI.