Deforestation, as we all know, is the depletion of forest areas. This has been a growing concern chiefly due to its negative impact on the climate. Bush fires, storms, torrential rainfall, name it, has been linked to global warming and by extension, forest depletion. Southern West African coastal cities are at great risk of frequent flash floods, no thanks to deforestation. Research by the UK Centre for Ecology &Hydrology (UKCEH) confirms this as it revealed that the rate of thunderstorms has doubled since 1991
This Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) funded research was part of a general attempt by UKCEH to understudy trends in climate change in West Africa where flooding is frequent and hopefully predict climate changes in West Africa in the coming years.
The research understudied satellite images from western Africa for over three decades. The study revealed changes in weather patterns [heating of the atmosphere and moistening of the atmosphere] due to massive deforestation.
Professor Chris Taylor the team leader of the study explains the degree of storm activity differs from region to region depending on changes in climate. However, the storm among forest-depleted areas would be almost the same. Also, similar research carried out in 2017 by Professor Taylor, revealed that severe Sahel storms were tripled because of global warming in about 35 years.
He also explained that a significant amount of the world lives about 100 km from the coast. As such they are easy targets for flash flooding and this, in turn, disrupts the livelihood of millions.
Deforestation is commonplace in Africa and Southeast Asia, forests are being actively depleted per year. The impact of this practice is manifest on the surrounding communities, as it predisposes to flooding, especially in places where the communities do not have the resources to manage the flood. The team found that in deforested places the prevalence of storms was twice more after 1991 than before. Also, the prevalence of storms has increased in forested areas by 40%. Multiple reports claim extreme temperature conditions, floods due to the storms have plagued Freetown, Sierra Leone.
Professor Taylor agrees that depleting the forest goes a long way to worsen the effects of climate change. Co-author Dr. Cornelia Klein explained that the sea breeze determines the pattern of the weather, however, deforestation played a major role in magnifying the strength of these winds as they move inland.
Sarah Webb, NERC’s Associate Director for International reports that the COP26 meeting underscored the importance and impact of climate change in the environment. She added that the NERC funded study helped educate communities on taking the right steps by rooting for safe, sustainable land management and farming system. They propose drafting an emergency action plan to help support, as well as reduce the negative impact of climate change.
Over the years, indigenous people have exploited the forest for many reasons not knowing or caring about the consequences. Hopefully, these recent natural disasters like flash floods can be deterrents to such behavior. Furthermore, the study provides insights on how they can do better, and plan for an eco-friendly environment.