i initiative

Space and Development…Increasing Access to Space in Africa

Archive for the ‘Drought’ Category

Keeping a Hand on the Pulse of Agriculture on the Continent

Posted by Simon Adebola on November 30, 2011

This post shows the use of satellite imagery to chronicle how natural and man-made events (floods, fires, and wasting droughts) contribute to the success and failure of the agricultural economy responsible for shaping and sustaining the livelihoods of millions of Africans. All images are from the NASA Earth Observatory.

Southern Africa flooding February 2011
Southern Africa flooding February 2011

Zambezi river flooding, Zambia and Namibia, February 2011
Zambezi river flooding, Zambia and Namibia, February 2011

Drought in East Africa, Image taken in January 2010,
Vegetation Anomaly (percent)
Drought in East Africa, Image taken in January 2010,

Fires in Okavango delta, Botswana, October 2010.
Fires in Okavango delta, Botswana, October 2010.

Flooded Oueme river, Benin, October 2010.
Flooded Oueme river, Benin, October 2010.

Revived and Flooded Boteti River, Botswana., September 2010.
Revived and Flooded Boteti River, Botswana., September 2010.

Bush burning, Angola and DRC, June 2010.
Bush burning, Angola and DRC, June 2010.

Flooded Pungue river, Mozambique, March 2010
Flooded Pungue river, Mozambique, March 2010

Flooding in North-central Tanzania, January 2010.
Flooding in North-central Tanzania, January 2010.

Agricultural fires across West Africa, December 2009.
Agricultural fires across West Africa, December 2009.

Fires in and around Mozambique, September 2009.
Fires in and around Mozambique, September 2009.

Flooding in West Africa, September 2009.
Flooding in West Africa, September 2009.

Posted in Africa, Drought, Earth observation, Flooding, Humanitarian emergencies, NASA, Satellites, Southern Africa, Space science and technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Remote Sensing and Desertification

Posted by Simon Adebola on December 21, 2010

“Satellite imaging technology has been recognized as playing an important role in achieving this objective by using these methods for monitoring the areas most at risk to support land and water management decisions.

Earth observation (EO) satellite technologies allow land degradation processes to be monitored over time. Monitoring desertification, land degradation and droughts requires continuous evaluation, some of which can be retrieved with earth observation technologies and state-of-the-art geo-spatial applications.

High-spectral resolution satellite imagery can dramatically increase the accuracy of dryland monitoring. Hyperspectral imagery incorporated with field and laboratory data for analysis can be used to derive more quantitative and specific soil properties directly linked to soil degradation status, such as soil chemical properties, organic matter, mineralogical content, infiltration capacity, aggregation capacity, and runoff coefficient.

Combining satellite image data with weather data, numeric models and geographical information systems (GIS) are used to create standardized geo-information products.”

Full article here

Posted in Climate change, Drought, Satellites, Space science and technology, Technology | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

GRACE abounds!

Posted by Simon Adebola on July 1, 2010

The National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) are to continue their collaboration on the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission on till 2015. Full story here

Data from NASA's GRACE satellites helps gauge groundwater fluctuations in northwestern India and elsewhere. (National Geographic Society Website)

Image courtesy Trent Schindler and Matt Rodell, NASA

Results from this mission have proven invaluable in tracking the amount of underground water, ice, and global sea levels. This is of key essence in preparing for hazards related to water shortages, rising sea levels, and ocean currents. It is also important that scienctists and researchers on the African continent take advantage of such data to develop intelligent systems that would help guide the development of climate adaptation, disaster preparedness, and mitigation efforts. The role of international cooperation, capacity building, and financial support is very crucial here. Efforts should also be made to engage communities proactively, and empower them to cope with these foreseeable challenges.

More on GRACE here

Posted in Africa, Climate change, Disaster management, Drought, Earth observation, Global Security, India, NASA, Satellites, Science, Space science and technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Climate Change Effects in Nigeria

Posted by Simon Adebola on March 30, 2010

Heat, Dusty Weather Raise Health Concerns
By Tunde Akingbade

Last Monday, over 90 percent of all the flights at the nation’s airports were cancelled or delayed. There was a thick fog in the atmosphere. The visibility was poor. It was less than 500 metres and this posed danger for aircraft all over the region.

In a particular instance, a passenger aircraft that was to land in Nigeria’s airport ended up in Cotonou, Benin republic because of poor visibility, according to airport sources.

Haze in Nigeria (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)


This reporter on his way to climate change engagements in Abuja was stuck at the airport.It was similar to an incident at Schipol Airport, Amsterdam on the way to India for a United Nations Climate Change conference sometime ago. Ironically, many climate change experts going for Climate conferences are being trapped the world over by erratic weather patterns. Incidences of meningitis have been on the increase in Nigeria for the past one-year as a result of excessive heat. This year has been unbearably hot in Nigeria and other countries in Sub Saharan Africa. In Nigeria the eleven frontline states in the north that have suffered from desert encroachment have been suffering from heat related ailments.

Early last year investigations revealed that over 200 people were killed by meningitis in Nigeria and Niger Republic in one week. There were outbreaks in 76 areas. There were 25,000 suspected cases and 1, 500 deaths in the first quarter of 2009. Although meningitis is a disease caused by an infection of the meanings, which is the thin lining that surrounds the brain and the spinal chord, experts have found a correlation between the weather and this disease. It is generally known that the disease attacks more people during the dry season because of dust, wind and cold nights. There were indications in the past one month that many people were treated for acute pneumonia in some hospitals as a result of the erratic and unpredictable weather which has also confused farmers about planting seasons raising fear about food production and security.

Apart from the reign of diseases as a result of harsh weather conditions in Northern Nigeria agriculture has been affected as a result of erratic weather patterns. The dryness has led to dry waterbeds and movement of people and their pasture to the southern regions thus causing tension and conflicts between the original inhabitants and the new comers. Experts at the United Nations and other global bodies have found over the years that the world’s climate has changed.

In one of his treatise on Climate Change in Nigeria and Niger, Professor Emmanuel Oladipo, a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Consultant and Nigeria/Niger Project, Niamey, confirmed that Climate change is a serious threat to efforts at poverty eradication, and sustainable development in Nigeria and Niger because the countries have large rural population directly depending on climate sensitive economic and development sectors (agriculture and fisheries).

Even in the southern states, medical experts hinted last week that cases of Tuberculosis have been on the increase.

Dr. Nath Ayo Macualay Medical Director, Macaulay Medical centre, Mushin, Lagos told The Guardian that apart from heat rashes that had been noticed amongst the populace within the period of intense heat, there has been an upsurge in Tuberculosis (TB) in the past one month.

Macaulay said that those who are at risk are those who were not immunized against TB. The Medical doctor said that when a tuberculosis patient spits on the ground, the TB virus can hang in the air for 42 days unlike other viruses such as gonorrhea that can die within one hour.

“If you breathe in the tuberculosis virus in the air through dust it very hazardous,” said Macaulay, adding that the “TB can be in the air because of a lot of dust”

Last Friday, the Federal government raised an alarm that tuberculosis is on the increase and that about one million Nigerians are afflicted by the disease.

Haze in Lagos (Photo: Femi Adebesin-Kuti)


Dr. Victor Fodeke, the Head/Designated National Authority (DNA) Special Climate Change Unit, Federal Ministry of Environment, Abuja told The Guardian in Abuja last week that the sudden change in weather at this time of the year is a very serious problem.

According to him, this is the beginning of the worst thing to expect adding that this is evidence that greenhouse gases have altered the weather patterns of the world and Nigeria in particular. Dr. Victor Nkom, climate change expert/consultant to the Federal Ministry of Environment warned in Abuja that the dusty and hazy weather would trigger certain ailments amongst the populace who were not ready for the unusual weather.

Nkom said the dust in the atmosphere would trigger droplet infection because the dust will become the medium of propagating the various viruses and bacteria that are airborne.

Fodeke regretted that policy makers all over the world have underestimated the problem of climate change. He noted that a document written by Professor Charles H. Greene, of Cornell University’s Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences entitled: “A Very Inconvenient Truth,” published in the peer-reviewed journal Oceanography this month concluded that the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2007 4th “assessment report underestimates the potential dangerous effects that man-made climate change will have on society.” Adding that “even if all man-made green house gas emission were stopped tomorrow and carbon-dioxide levels stabilized at today’s concentration, by the end of this century the global average temperature would increase by about 4.3 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 2.4 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels, which is significantly above the level which scientists and policymakers agree is a threshold for dangerous climate change.” In the document, Professor Green and other co authors D. James Baker of the William J. Clinton Foundation and Daniel H. Miller of the Roda Group, Berkeley, California, USA are of the opinion that “reducing greenhouse gas emissions alone is unlikely to mitigate the risks of dangerous climate change” adding that society should significantly expand research into geo-engineering solutions that remove and sequester greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere. He concluded by adding that geo-engineering solutions must be in addition to, not replace, dramatic emission reductions if society is to avoid the most dangerous impacts from climate change.”

Tunde Akingbade writes for the Guardian Newspapers in Nigeria. This report was culled from The Guardian (30-03-10)

Posted in Africa, Climate change, Drought, Earth observation, Epidemiology, Global Security, Health, Tuberculosis | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

Launching the ‘African Heritage From Space’ Series: Namib Desert (AHFSS 1)

Posted by Simon Adebola on February 18, 2010

Africa is blessed with a rich social, moral and cultural heritage, there is no doubt about that. The land is also rich in bountiful stores of natural resources. It’s people however are its greatest assets and these have made their mark not only on the continent but indeed all over the globe and even in space exploration. That is Africa.

Of particular significance though, is the uniqueness and beauty of Africa’s geophysical structure. It’s breathtaking landscapes, lush greenery, magnificent forests, cascading waterfalls, gorgeous hills and mountains, “proud ancestral savannas”, and seering yet awestriking deserts, are some of the features that have made Africa the prime allure of explorers, the daring and adventurous for centuries.

The Group on Earth Observation (GEO) lists ecosystems and biodiversity as two of its themes and societal benefit areas. Space technologies can play a major role in supporting efforts at conserving the state of our environment. These efforts thus need to be augmented through the use of earth observation and other space capabilities in environmental monitoring and conservation. There is an increasing role to be played by the integration of technologies in development aims because they offer boundless opportunities to optimize resources and increase efficiency.

The ‘African Heritage from Space Series’ is being launched to connect these potentials of space technology to the God-given magnificence of Africa’s ecosystems and entire landscape. This will showcase the varied scenes of beauty that exist in different parts of the continent as seen through the eyes of space-borne instruments. Furthermore, like apples of gold in settings of silver, each image would be set within the context of what is and what could be.

The first image in this series is of the Namibian Desert and it was taken by an astronaut on Expedition 22 on the International Space Station (ISS). It is made available through the NASA Earth Observatory.

Tsauchab River and Sossus Vlei Lakebed, Namibia (NASA)

The Namibian desert extends for about 81,000 sq. km. and it is from this Namib (Nama for vast) desert that the country of Namibia gets its name. The driest desert in Africa and the oldest in the world, this richest of sources for diamonds captivates endlessly with its awestriking dunes that remind one of the Martian landscape. It has a unique blend of animal and plant varieties that make up its ecosystem. One of the most popular of these is the Welwitschia mirabilis with its single pair of leaves, existing in an order of its own. See a video of the desert and its enchanting features below.

The desert has long inspired paintings, photographs, poems, historical writings and other works of art. It has also had its fair share of scientific study. The sand dunes pictured in this image are the tallest in the world, reaching up to a height of 300 metres above river bottom. The desert however is one of the world’s driest and the future of its species, though rugged, is a concern for conservationists and environmental biologists. It is also a location for mining ventures which together with farming, if not carefully monitored, could further pose a challenge to its ecostability. It is a coastal desert that is gradually encroaching westward to reclaim land from the ocean.

You can explore the area further here

Posted in Africa, Development, Drought, Earth observation, Education, NASA, Satellites, Science, Southern Africa, Space, Space science and technology, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Dust and Droughts in Africa

Posted by Simon Adebola on August 20, 2009

The plight of African farming and the need to develop adaptive systems to cope with the changes that may be forced on African populations due to environmental change has been touched on in an earlier post. The role that early warning systems can play in shaping this adaptive response has also been discussed in another post. This post has as its focus an examination of the interactions, as often abound in nature, between factors in the African environment, and how these interactions could contribute to the challenges being faced with precipitation, drought and food security. The role of space science and technology in arming researchers, scientists and government policy makers with the right information and predictive tools to evolve appropriate and evidence-based responses to these challenges is highlighted.

The flow of dust on the African continent is abundant. It has some of the world’s largest sandy deserts- the Sahara (the world’s largest hot desert), the Kalahari and the Namib. The Arabian desert extending from Egypt to Iran is also close by. These supply a stream of dust propelled by the trade winds and which blow huge amounts of dust over the continent towards the equator and the oceans. The effect of these dusty winds on rainfall is by acting as aerosols and interfering with the coalescing of water droplets in rain clouds. This leads to a dispersion effect on the water droplets, preventing rain drop formation and hence precipitation. The scourge of reducing annual rainfall on many parts of the African continent is as shown in the picture below. The socio-economic impact of this is better avoided. Food and water shortages in Kenya this year left about a third of the population in need of aid.

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Drought in Africa 2009 (Source: NASA Earth Observatory)

Another effect of dust clouds is on Sea Surface Temperature (SST) and its ensuing effect on tropical storms. Although not a major problem for the continent on its Atlantic end, the propagation of El Niño-La Niña events has been linked to droughts, tropical rainfall, storms, floods, malaria and even cholera incidence in some parts of Africa. The El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) also bears links to other diseases. Space technologies play a crucial part in defining and predicting the occurence of these events and may also aid the mitigation process.
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Atlantic Ocean Temperatures at End of June 2009 (Source: NASA Earth Observatory)

Aerosol Optical and Dynamic Propoerties (Source: NASA Goddard)

Amongst other uses of space technologies in keeping track of these environmental variables, their use in monitoring groundwater has also been demonstrated. Using results from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) a joint NASA and DLR mission, a team of NASA researchers demonstrated receeding groundwater stores in India, most likely due to irrigation that has relied on these groundwater sources. Thus using satellite technology it is now possible to generate a comprehensive monitoring system that keeps track of not only the environmental variables affecting precipitation and drought, but also the effectiveness and effect of countermeasures developed as part of the anti-drought response.

More info here

Posted in Africa, Climate change, Drought, Earth observation, Epidemiology, Flooding, Health, India, NASA, Satellites, Science, Space, Space science and technology, Technology | 2 Comments »