‘So Many Dimensions’: A Drought Study Underlines the Complexity of Climate

Hundreds of thousands of people in the Indian Ocean nation of Madagascar have been affected by the lack of precipitation in the last two years. The situation there is close to a humanitarian catastrophe.

Climate scientists said on Wednesday that human-caused climate change does not appear to be the main cause.

The researchers found that the south of Madagascar has a lot of variability in the amount of rain.

They said the island should still aim to cope with dry spells. If global average temperatures rise by more than 2 degrees Celsius, the scientists convened by the United Nations have determined that there will likely be an increase in the number of dry days in the country.

The average global temperature has increased by 1.1 degrees Celsius. Scientists say that nations need to try to prevent temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the threshold beyond which they say the likelihood of catastrophic fires, floods, drought, heat waves and other disasters significantly increases. Current policies put the planet on a path for warming by the year 2200.

The director of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Center said that the study shows that the current climate variability is already causing humanitarian suffering. Anything that climate change would make worse would become a bigger problem quickly.

The ring-tailed lemurs can be found on the sandy beaches of the island. The southwestern part of the nation has been left in a dire state by low precipitation since 2019.

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The United Nations says that more than a million people are experiencing high levels of food insufficiency. Half a million children under the age of 5 are at risk of severe malnutrition.

The climate researchers estimated that there was a one-in-135 chance of a long dryspell in that part of the island.

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People waited in line to see doctors with Doctors Without Borders.

The effects of environmental degradation have been made worse by the drought. Cropland and pastures have been ruined by Sandstorms. An outbreak of insects threatens more destruction.

The UN World Food Program has found that the residents of the Grand Sud have been forced to eat grass, leaves and clay. Children quit school to help their families. Some people have died of hunger, according to testimonies collected by the organization.

The World Weather Attribution initiative is an international scientific collaboration that specializes in determining the links between climate change and individual weather events. The group performs such analyses with a speed that is unusual in the scientific publishing world: It aims to present sound science to the public while events are still fresh in people's minds.

The team's study has not been peer reviewed. The approach is to use computer simulations to compare the current world in which humans have pumped greenhouse gases into the atmosphere to a hypothetical one without that activity.

It may seem odd that global warming doesn't increase the likelihood of a dry spell. The relationship is not easy to understand. Climate change can cause more intense rain events.

Dr. van Aalst said thatought has many dimensions. How much average annual rainfall do you get? Do you get it nicely distributed or do you just get it in huge amounts at once? Do you get it in the right season?

Drawing too straight a line from our precipitation observations to what people in the end suffer from is something we have to be careful with.

Extreme weather events have been linked to climate change. The group found that the heat wave in the Pacific Northwest would not have happened without it.

The Climate System Analysis Group at the University of Cape Town in South Africa believes that the combination of factors that make up the dry spell are more difficult to deal with than heat waves.

Dr. Wolski said that the majority of the narrative these days is that climate change is to blame for the droughts. It is not a bad narrative because it is not everywhere and not in every case.

Daniel Osgood, a research scientist at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University who was not involved in the study, said that livelihoods are easily disrupted by wild swings in precipitation.

Dr. Osgood is working on a project to provide affordable insurance for growers in Africa. They want to become more resilient to weather shocks. He said it was not how much you eat on average. It is how much you eat every night that makes a difference.