MOMBASA (Kenya) — As the Indian Ocean region faces an intensifying cyclone season, the new tropical storm could be approaching.
Tropical Storm Dumako is projected to slam into the northeastern coast of Madagascar Tuesday evening, according to the U.N.’s regional meteorology center in Reunion. The fourth and final storm of the year, Dumako is expected to hit northeastern Madagascar. Toamasina, Analanjirofo, and Sava are all on high alert.
About eight to 12 more cyclones may hit southern Africa and nearby islands in the Indian Ocean before the cyclone season ends in May, part of an increase in recent years of extreme tropical storms in the Southern Hemisphere, according to the U.N. Meteorological Organization.
Southern Africa was warned to prepare for “more high-impact tropical cyclones, coastal flooding and intense rainfall linked to climate change” by the meteorological organization after Cyclone Idai caused massive destruction and hundreds of deaths in Mozambique and neighboring countries in 2019.
Madagascar is still counting the toll of Batsirai, which left 121 people dead earlier in February, according to official figures, and destroyed many buildings and roads. Just weeks before, in January, Tropical Storm Ana claimed 58 lives and displaced 130,000 people on Madagascar and caused further destruction in Mozambique and Malawi. In the past few years, we’ve seen more ocean warming. “This change in climate patterns in India Ocean usually leads to an increase in cyclones at the southwestern portion,” Evans Mukolwe (African meteorological expert and consultant for U.N. intergovernmental authority on Climate prediction) said.
“Climate change is having severe impacts on Africa,” he said.
Mukolwe echos warnings issued late last year, by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They warned that climate change could cause severe weather-related problems for Africa’s coastal countries and islands. Madagascar is expected to suffer from frequent droughts and arid spells, while being wreaked by powerful tropical cyclones. The Indian Ocean island of Madagascar has been suffering from this paradoxical combination of droughts, cyclones and both.
Tropical storms have battered eastern Madagascar and the central capital, Antananarivo, even as the southeastern part of the island experienced its worst drought in 40 years, according to the World Food Program. It appealed to the agency for food assistance for over 1.1 million people living in south Madagascar’s Anosy-Androy areas.
Africa’s islands and coastal cities are at risk of more extreme weather in the coming years, according to the U.N.’s intergovernmental panel on climate change. Slightly more than 50 major African cities are exposed to severe climate-related threats posed by sea level and air temperatures rise, the panel warned in a report.
“A rise in sea level, storm surges, and waves could lead to coastal flooding and increase saltwater intrusion into the aquifers.” The report stated.
The Indian Ocean’s surface has warmed more quickly than the average global temperature, which will lead to more severe cyclones as well as more droughts.
Africa’s coastal areas are likely to see continued rises in the sea level in this century leading to severe coastal flooding, marine heatwaves, ocean acidification and reduced oxygen levels, according to the report.
To counter the dangerous changes posed by extreme events, the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa has called for climate-smart planning in all economic sectors.
“Sustained investments in disaster risk reduction, energy, water systems, infrastructure, and resilient nature-based ecosystems are needed to cushion Africa’s socio-economic growth, fast-track poverty alleviation, and attain a smart and climate-neutral industrialization agenda,” said Jean-Paul Adam, director of climate change at the U.N. agency.
AP journalist Laetitia Bezain in Antananarivo, Madagascar, contributed.