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Another benefit of global warming

Posted by Richard on August 26, 2009

Turn up your air conditioner. Fire up the barbecue grill. Gas up your SUV and take a road trip. If human CO2 production is in fact warming the planet, you'll be helping to make the desert bloom. And millions of Africans will thank you. This happy news comes from those right-wing shills for industry at National Geographic:

Desertification, drought, and despair-that's what global warming has in store for much of Africa. Or so we hear.

Emerging evidence is painting a very different scenario, one in which rising temperatures could benefit millions of Africans in the driest parts of the continent.

Scientists are now seeing signals that the Sahara desert and surrounding regions are greening due to increasing rainfall.

If sustained, these rains could revitalize drought-ravaged regions, reclaiming them for farming communities.

This desert-shrinking trend is supported by climate models, which predict a return to conditions that turned the Sahara into a lush savanna some 12,000 years ago.

The green shoots of recovery are showing up on satellite images of regions including the Sahel, a semi-desert zone bordering the Sahara to the south that stretches some 2,400 miles (3,860 kilometers).

Images taken between 1982 and 2002 revealed extensive regreening throughout the Sahel, according to a new study in the journal Biogeosciences.

The study suggests huge increases in vegetation in areas including central Chad and western Sudan.

The transition may be occurring because hotter air has more capacity to hold moisture, which in turn creates more rain, said Martin Claussen of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, Germany, who was not involved in the new study.

In the eastern Sahara area of southwestern Egypt and northern Sudan, new trees-such as acacias-are flourishing, according to Stefan Kröpelin, a climate scientist at the University of Cologne's Africa Research Unit in Germany.

"Shrubs are coming up and growing into big shrubs. This is completely different from having a bit more tiny grass," said Kröpelin, who has studied the region for two decades.

In 2008 Kröpelin-not involved in the new satellite research-visited Western Sahara, a disputed territory controlled by Morocco.

"The nomads there told me there was never as much rainfall as in the past few years," Kröpelin said. "They have never seen so much grazing land."

"Before, there was not a single scorpion, not a single blade of grass," he said.

"Now you have people grazing their camels in areas which may not have been used for hundreds or even thousands of years. You see birds, ostriches, gazelles coming back, even sorts of amphibians coming back," he said.

"The trend has continued for more than 20 years. It is indisputable."

Sounds pretty good to me. I think I'll go increase my carbon footprint.

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6 Responses to “Another benefit of global warming”

  1. Hathor said

    Will it be a boon when Iowa is dessert? I wonder how much more blood will flow over the new resource.

    The African continent has survived Ice Ages and what happens in Africa is not going to keep a Pacific Islander from losing his nation or prevent desertification on other continents.

  2. David Aitken said

    I didn’t know Iowa was that tasty! Of course, corn on the cob can be pretty good.

  3. rgcombs said

    Hathor — The same people who’ve persuaded you that Pacific Islands will disappear and Iowa will become a desert also predicted Saharan and sub-Saharan Africa would become even more arid and lifeless. How much more empirical evidence contradicting their fancy computer models do we need before you start to wonder whether their dire predictions are all that accurate?

    David — Groan!

  4. Hathor said

    I didn’t think I made that statement as a prediction, I was saying that whats happens in Africa may in no way effect the rest of the continents.

    I also don’t think the any effect of climate change us going to be so immediate that it will look like terraforming.(The Search for Spock)

    There are Pacific islanders that have already lost their homes, because the sea levels have risen. Your disagreeing with the cause doesn’t change that.

  5. David Bryant said

    Simple thermodynamics tells us that if the global average temperature rises, more water vapor will evaporate from the oceans, and eventually more rain will fall somewhere. That part’s easy. Predicting exactly where the rain is going to fall is much more difficult. I’m hoping that some of it comes Colorado’s way. That would be good for skiers and gardeners. dcb

  6. rgcombs said

    David, it seems to me that a pretty good amount has come Colorado’s way this summer! 🙂 I believe we matched our average annual precipitation about the end of July.

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