Increased high-temperature extremes and associated population exposure in Africa by the mid-21st century

Sci Total Environ. 2021 Oct 10;790:148162. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.148162. Epub 2021 May 31.


Previous studies warned that heat extremes are likely to intensify and frequently occur in the future due to climate change. Apart from changing climate, the population's size and distribution contribute to the total changes in the population exposed to heat extremes. The present study uses the ensemble mean of global climate models from the Coupled Model Inter-comparison Project Phase six (CMIP6) and population projection to assess the future changes in high-temperature extremes and exposure to the population by the middle of this century (2041-2060) in Africa compared to the recent climate taken from 1991 to 2010. Two Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs), namely SSP2-4.5 and SSP5-8.5, are used. Changes in population exposure and its contributors are quantified at continental and for various sub-regions. The intensity of high-temperature extremes is anticipated to escalate between 0.25 to 1.8 °C and 0.6 to 4 °C under SSP2-4.5 and SSP5-8.5, respectively, with Sahara and West Southern Africa projected to warm faster than the rest of the regions. On average, warm days' frequency is also expected to upsurge under SSP2-4.5 (26-59%) and SSP5-8.5 (30-69%) relative to the recent climate. By the mid-21st century, continental population exposure is expected to upsurge by ~25% (28%) of the reference period under SSP2-4.5|SSP2 (SSP5-8.5|SSP5). The highest increase in exposure is expected in most parts of West Africa (WAF), followed by East Africa. The projected changes in continental exposure (~353.6 million person-days under SSP2-4.5|SSP2 and ~401.4 million person-days under SSP5-8.5|SSP5) are mainly due to the interaction effect. However, the climate's influence is more than the population, especially for WAF, South-East Africa and East Southern Africa. The study findings are vital for climate change adaptation.

Keywords: Africa; CMIP6; Climate; Exposure; Heat extremes; Population.

MeSH terms

  • Climate Change*
  • Forecasting
  • Hot Temperature*
  • Humans
  • South Africa
  • Temperature