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How human activity influences extreme weather

How human activity influences extreme weather

By Daniel Ighakpe

Have you been feeling the heat in your part of the country lately? Since the beginning of this year, the weather in many parts of Nigeria has been very hot! Experts in the health sector have also expressed concern over the ongoing heat wave in many parts of the country. In fact, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (Nimet) warned that if safety precautions are not taken, Nigerians in Abuja, Kano, and many other northern states are likely to suffer heat strokes due to the scorching heat wave.

In many parts of the world, extreme weather is becoming increasingly frequent and intense. But what is meant by the term “extreme weather”? Extreme weather refers to a noticeable change in weather patterns that includes extreme situations such as significantly high or low temperatures, heavy rainfall, and strong winds over a relatively short span of time. Weather is made up of six main components: temperature, atmospheric pressure, cloud formation, wind, humidity, and rain. Any small change to any of these conditions can create a different weather pattern.

Read also: NiMet, FUPRE to partner on weather observation, research, E-Learning

So, what are some of the causes of extreme weather, or heat waves in particular? Climate researchers say that heat waves occur when there is high pressure in the atmosphere that forces hot air downward and traps it near the ground. This high-pressure system acts like a lock that prevents the hot air from rising, causing the temperature to rise further.

But apart from natural factors, human activity also causes rapid changes to the climate that can contribute to extreme weather conditions. For example, when fossil fuels are burned for electricity, heat, and transportation, carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps solar radiation, is released into our atmosphere. Over a long period of time, as carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase, they act as a blanket, trapping heat and therefore causing the temperature to rise. Also, extreme heat increases the demand for air conditioning, thereby fueling carbon pollution and putting a strain on our energy system, which leads to poor electricity supply or power outages. Global warming, fueled by the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and industrial activities, has also contributed to the increase in climate temperatures. Additionally, heat waves are worsened or aggravated in urban environments by the urban heat island effect, caused by the concentration of concrete and asphalt surfaces as well as the reduction of vegetation and other human sources of heat.

One other factor that some experts have identified as a major contributor to the current heat wave being experienced in the country is methane emissions. Methane is a colourless, odourless, and flammable gas that is the main constituent of natural gas. Methane is 80 percent more potent at trapping heat and carbon dioxide. What that means is that when methane traps the heat, getting it released until it disperses increases the wave of heat, and that is why it is said that methane on its own causes about 40 percent of global heat-related issues within the environment.

Experts have therefore called on Nigerians to take measures towards reducing methane emissions in the environment. The experts say that by reducing human activities that lead to methane production, we can reduce the emission of methane into the atmosphere. There is also a need to take control in terms of advocacy and in terms of trying as much as possible to manage our waste as well as a way of reducing short-term methane emissions into the atmosphere. We should also ensure that we reduce the indiscriminate dumping of waste at dumpsites. This is because sometimes methane production is very natural, through the decomposition of organic materials. Individual and community actions are also necessary in order to reduce carbon emissions, thereby promoting better climate resilience.

What can people do to cope with a heat wave? Top on the list is staying cool and hydrated. Drinking a lot of water at regular intervals before you are thirsty is very important. Also, reduce your intake of caffeinated or intoxicating drinks. Ensure good ventilation in residential places and take regular baths. Also, stay out of the heat. Do not go outside during the hottest times of the day if you can avoid it. When outside, wear sunscreen and try to stay in the shade, or use hats and umbrellas for protection. Also, wear light and loose clothes.

Read also: IMF projects steady rise in growth for Sub-Saharan Africa on recovery from weather shock

What steps can be taken to fight global warming? Tree planting has been scientifically proven to be very useful as the first line of defence in the fight against global warming because trees absorb the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and replenish the air with oxygen. They also contribute immensely to the aesthetics of the environment. Additionally, trees help to check erosion and stem the tide of windstorms by serving as windbreakers. On another note, trees also serve as excellent cleansers. Therefore, tree planting is one of the most valuable tools that can help provide environmental stability and protect our environment.

 

Daniel IGHAKPE; [email protected]; 0817 479 5742. FESTAC Town, Lagos.