Daily Archives: November 4, 2022

FOCUS: Climate Change in Africa

According to a new report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), water stress and hazards like withering droughts and devastating floods are hitting African communities, economies and ecosystems hard. Rainfall patterns are disrupted, glaciers are disappearing and key lakes are shrinking. Rising water demand combined with limited and unpredictable supplies threatens to aggravate conflict and displacement. Extreme weather and climate change are undermining human health and safety, food and water security and socio-economic development. Africa only accounts for about 2% to 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions but suffers disproportionately from the results. Scroll down for key points from the report, click the button below for more from the report.

WMO REPORT: State of the Climate in Africa

Exreme Weather

Severe Floods have affected South Sudan, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, DRC and Burundi. South Sudan recorded the third straight year of extreme floods leading to elevated water levels of lakes and rivers, resulting from the intense rainfall in 2020 and 2021.
Currently only 40 percent of the African population have access to early warning systems to protect them against extreme weather and climate change impacts. Africa is therefore a top priority in the campaign spearheaded by WMO, at the request of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, to ensure universal access to early warnings in the next five years.


Surface temperatures in Africa rose more than the global average in 2021, making last year one of the hottest on record for the continent.

Africa’s climate has warmed more than the global average since pre-industrial times (1850-1900).
Africa warmed at an average rate of around +0.3 °C/decade between 1991 and 2021, faster than the warming from 1961-1990, at +0.2°C/decade. The year 2021 was either the third or fourth warmest years on record for Africa.

Sea Levels

Sea level rise is increasing along the African coastlines is at a higher rate than the global mean rate, especially along the Red Sea and southwest Indian Ocean where the rate is close to 4 mm/year. This is likely to continue in the future, contributing to increased frequency and severity of coastal flooding in low-lying cities and increased salinity of groundwater due to sea water intrusion. By 2030, 108-116 million people in Africa are expected to be exposed to sea level rise risk.


Drought in East Africa has worsened following consecutive failed rainy seasons combined with heightened conflict, related population displacement, and COVID-19 restrictions. High food prices impeded food availability and access, leaving more than 58 million people in conditions of acute food insecurity. The situation is worsening this year – especially in Ethiopia, Somalia and parts of Kenya. Southern Madagascar is also suffering from acute drought.

Across the Horn of Africa, at least 36.1 million people have now been affected by the drought which began in October 2020, including 24.1 million in Ethiopia, 7.8 million in Somalia and 4.2 million in Kenya. This represents a significant increase from July 2022 (when an estimated 19.4 million people were affected), reflecting the impact of the drought in additional geographic areas of Ethiopia, as well as the rising needs in Somalia.

In an oasis notorious as the hottest place in Africa, Tunisian farmers say they are fighting a losing battle with drought and disease that is driving many to abandon plantations where they grow some of the world’s finest dates.The date palm orchards at Kebili oasis used to form green, fertile islands in an arid landscape. But now many of the trees are dying, and dry, bare and fruitless trunks stretch up into a clear blue sky.

Food Insecurity

Increased temperature contributed to a 34% reduction in agricultural productivity growth in Africa since 1961 – more than any other region in the world. This trend is expected to continue in the future, increasing the risk of acute food insecurity and malnutrition. A global warming of 1.5 °C is projected to be accompanied by a decline of 9% of the maize yield in West Africa and 20%-60% of the wheat yield in southern and northern Africa.

Extremely high levels of food insecurity observed across Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia and further deteriorations likely with between 23 – 26 million people becoming highly food insecure due to drought by February 2023
At least 20.5 million people are already waking each day to high levels of acute food insecurity and rising malnutrition across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, and this figure could increase to between 23 and 26 million by February 2023, according to the Food Security and Nutrition Working Group (FSNWG).

In Somalia, 7.1 million people are now acutely food insecure—including over 213,000 people in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5)—and eight areas of the country are at risk of famine between now and February 2023, with Bay and Bakool regions of particular concern. About 9.9 million people in Ethiopia and some 3.5 million people in Kenya are severely food insecure due to the drought.
Over 8.9 million livestock—which pastoralist families rely upon for sustenance and livelihoods—have died across the region, including 3.5 million in Ethiopia, 2.4 million in Kenya and over 3 million in Somalia.

Hazards & Displacement

Droughts and floods are the top concern. In the past 50 years, drought-related hazards have claimed the lives of over half a million people and led to economic losses of over 70 billion USD in the region. More than 1 000 flood-related disasters were reported involving more than 20 000 deaths in Africa over this period. It is estimated that by 2050, climate impacts could cost African nations USD 50 billion annually.

Climate-related hazards continued to be a major driver of new displacement in Africa. Chronic floods and droughts, sea level rise, and extreme weather events all influence displacement patterns within borders and across international borders. In 2021, around 14.1 million people were internally displaced in Sub-Saharan Africa, including around 11.5 million due to conflict and violence and 2.5 million due to disasters.

Wildfires across northern and north-eastern Algeria, cause a considerate humanitarian impact. According to the Algeria Press Service (APS) and media reports, since 15 August, at least 37 people have died (most of them in El Taref Province, north-eastern Algeria), and more than 200 others have been injured, including 10 firefighters.

Water Stress

High water stress is estimated to affect about 250 million people in Africa and is expected to displace up to 700 million people by 2030. Four out of five African countries are unlikely to have sustainably managed water resources by 2030.
27 out of 51 African countries for which data are available have inadequate capacity to implement Integrated Water Resource Management and in 2020, many activities were undertaken on an ad hoc basis with unsustainable financing.

Increasing consumption combined with more frequent droughts and heat events will increase water demand and put additional pressure on already scarce water resources. Disruption in water availability will impede access to safe water and threatens to trigger conflicts between people who are already contending with economic challenges. Around 418 million people still lack even a basic level of drinking water and 779 million people lack basic sanitation services.

The total surface area of Lake Chad, which is located close to the Sahara desert, bordering Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Niger, has shrunk from 25 000 km2 in the 1960s to 1 350 km2 in the 2000s and remained stable since. In West Africa, the long-term decline in river flow is attributed to increase in temperature, drought, and increased water demand.


Mountain glaciers on the continent continue to recede. Several significant glaciers are set to disappear in a matter of years.
Glaciers in equatorial East Africa: Mount Kenya (Kenya), Mount Kilimanjaro (Tanzania), and the Rwenzoris Mountains (Uganda) are retreating at a faster rate than the global mean.

In a few cases, such as Mount Kilimanjaro, 85 percent of the ice cover has been lost in the last century.
Whether or not glaciers fully disappear in East Africa depends on the amount of future precipitation that falls in the East Africa region.

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Richard Pflederer on Portolan Charts – Mondays at Beinecke, October 31, 2022

Beinecke Library at Yale – Nov 1, 2022

Richard Pflederer speaks on “Using Portolan Charts in Beinecke to Understand Portugal’s Territorial and Economic Expansion” in this talk in conjunction with the current building-wide exhibition, The World in Maps, 1400-1600. (Exhibition information: https://beinecke.library.yale.edu/wor…)

Part of Mondays at Beinecke online, a virtual series of gallery talks every Monday at 4pm. Talks focus on materials from the collections and include an opening presentation at 4pm followed by conversation and question and answer beginning about 4:30pm until 5pm.

Pflederer began his detailed study of portolan charts in the year 2000 when he was invited to produce a detailed digital catalogue of the collection of the British Library. In the years that followed he has completed similar catalogues of six other important collections: NMM (Greenwich), Bodleian Library (Oxford), Huntington Library, Library of Congress, the Newberry Library and Archivio di Stato di Firenze.

He has also assembled and published a detailed census of all known portolan charts, including as many in private hands as are known (published in 2009 and updated annually). His book, Finding their Way at Sea (HES & DE GRAAF 2013), is a heavily illustrated work intended to introduce the subject to a general audience. He is a graduate of Northwestern University and has completed programs at Columbia University and the Thunderbird School of Global Management (Arizona). He is the founder of the Williamsburg Map Circle and the on the Steering Committee of the Phillips Society of the Library of Congress.

See related:

In particular, consider the importance in the Yale Beinecke collection of one of the earliest Portuguese portolan charts.  It is described briefly here by Raymond Clemens — the Curator of the current Beinecke exhibit:

This chart by Jorge de Aguilar from 1492 — described in this brief excerpt — contains a very interesting “insert” drawn in the interior of West Africa but representing the coastline details south and west from the Cape Verde area (current day Senegal) down past what it labels as Sierra Leone and all the way to the castle of Elmina, which the Portuguese began constructing in 1482, a decade before the 1492 discoveries of Columbus in the “new” world.

The presence of the Dutch Dutch in the “new world” is also very importantly recorded in the Yale portolan collection:

portuguese portolan yale image

1619 – Anonymous ms. Portugese portolano of the Atlantic Ocean – Yale University Library

This 1619 portolan chart could be compared carefully with the 1635 map printed in Holland and others like it printed later.  What are “the problems of transmission” here that, as John Hessler has suggested, future scholarship needs to address?

1635 – Dutch Map of Africa, Brazil and the Atlantic


and, respectively

In short, a careful consideration of the Yale’s portolan charts in the current exhibit leads well beyond the period of 1400 to 1600 which it is said to cover.  In effect, the discussion begun with this Yale exhibit — and extended so knowledgeably by Richard Pflederman with the portolan charts —  invites viewers to take an important next step in global understanding as it points to the emergence of the “Golden Age” in Dutch history and the similar flourishing of French and British overseas empires.

For discussions at the Library of Congress on topics including the portolan charts and the first printed maps of the Americas see:

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