People wade through a flooded district in Lagos, Nigeria, back in September after a torrential downpour. File photo by Akintunde Akinleye/EPA-EFE
Nov. 17 (UPI) -- Climate change is largely responsible for this year's catastrophic monsoon flooding in Nigeria that killed hundreds of people and destroyed thousands of acres of land, according to new research.
Scientists from nearly a dozen countries around the world contributed to the study, which was published Thursday by World Weather Attribution, a leading global environmental initiative that keeps track of extreme climate events.
The study looked into the causes of West Africa's disaster and cast some blame on human causes, including greenhouse gases, aerosol pollution and other emissions that affect rainfall in the area.
Many regions of West Africa experienced historic rainfall and floods during this year's monsoon season that ran between May and October.
Now that the rains have eased, experts are taking a closer look at climate change and whether it played a role in the deaths of more than 612 people in Nigeria and another 195 dead in Niger due to the flooding.
"The flooding occurred as a consequence of above average rainfall throughout the 2022 rainy season exacerbated by shorter spikes of very heavy rain leading to flash floods as well as riverine floods," the study found.
The devastation is said to be most palpable in Nigeria, where floods have damaged thousands of acres of farmland and displaced more than 1.3 million residents as villages have been destroyed in nearly every region.
Torrential downpours began early in the season, with Niger and Nigeria taking the first blow from Mother Nature in June, followed by Chad in July, Cameroon in August and Benin in September, the study found.
Heavy rains also led to extreme flooding events in large areas around Lake Chad, and from Mali to Cameroon.
"For the seasonal rainfall over the Lake Chad region, we conclude that climate change made the event about 80 times more likely and approximately 20% more intense," the report says.
In an effort to head off a wider disaster, government officials regularly conducted several controlled water releases from dams in the region, but those actions inadvertently caused more ruin, the study found.
"The devastating impacts were further exacerbated by the proximity of human settlements, infrastructure (homes, buildings, bridges), and agricultural land to flood plains, underlying vulnerabilities driven by high poverty rates and socioeconomic factors (e.g. gender, age, income, and education), and ongoing political and economic instability," the report said.
To track changes in rainfall over time, the study measured the average seasonal rainfall around Lake Chad compared to a "historical record of weather data, and climate models with and without human activities altering the climate," the report notes.
The study concludes with a brief assessment on future weather conditions, saying "rainfall intensity will increase further, but not as strongly" in the region, and also stresses "the urgent need to drastically improve water management and reduce vulnerability to seasonal rainfall."