Thunderstorms form when cold air pressure arrives over a hot and humid area, and in Africa, the thunderstorms are increasing. A severe outbreak of severe thunderstorms in Ghana, a country in West Africa, at the end of January was four times more common than a decade ago. And in Benin, which borders Ghana, both of the country’s airports experienced severe thunderstorms at least once a month, compared to once a year in 2000. The reasons for this are simple: a lack of rain and the recent influx of people moving from rural areas to urban centers, including cities in Ghana and Mali.
For scientists at the University of British Columbia, this is more than a problem of “weather from heaven.” Instead, it is a sign of what might be happening throughout much of Africa. The scientists hope to map out the many storms they find — and use weather data from these storms to better understand the weather patterns in Africa.
“The storms we are seeing are different than what we see in southern Africa,” said Dr. Brent Talcott, a scientist at the Climate Change Research Center at UBC. “They are more serious, more of a threat to infrastructure, even to human life.”
But it’s not just thunderstorms that threaten the region. Climate change is likely to exacerbate a number of weather patterns, including much hotter summers and extremely cold winters, which is what has led to the current precipitous rise in thunderstorms. The climate change theme was also prevalent in the nearly 6,000-word study, written by a team of scientists from Canada, Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom.