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Event Details

Heatwave event report

Category: Heatwave
Observation: 17.05.2010
Continent: Africa
Country: Tanzania
Area: Lake Tanganyika
Severity: Hight
Event details
Lake Tanganyika, the second oldest and second deepest lake in the world, is now at its warmest in 1500 years, threatening the fishing industry on which millions of lives depend, scientists say. The evidence comes from cores drilled into sedimentary layers in the lake bottom that point to climate changes over many centuries. Tanganyika's surface waters, at 26 degrees celsius, are now at temperatures that are "unprecedented since AD 500", they reported in the journal Nature Geoscience. The warming accelerated in the late 20th century, tallying with abundant data from other sites pointing the finger at man-made, heat-trapping greenhouse gases, they said. As it has warmed, the lake has also suffered a fall in biological activity, they said. Surface layers that warm become harder to penetrate by cool currents welling up from the lake's depths, which bring vital nutrients that feed the first links in the food chain. Ultimately, commercial fish species become affected. "The people throughout south-central Africa depend on the fish from Lake Tanganyika as a crucial source of protein," said Andrew Cohen, a professor of geological sciences at the University of Arizona, who took part in coring expeditions in 2001 and 2004. "This resource is likely threatened by the lake's unprecedented warming since the late 19th century and the associated loss of lake productivity." An estimated 10 million people in Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo depend on the lake, using it for drinking water and for fish, of which up to 200,000 tonnes, mainly sardines, are harvested each year. The paper, led by Jessica Tierney, a geologist at Brown University, appears in the journal Nature Geoscience. In a separate study, a pair of Swiss scientists spelt out detailed warnings about the peril facing Europe's Mediterranean rim from global warming. Previous work had established the Iberian peninsular and European countries on the Mediterranean as badly exposed to heatwaves and water stress, based on current warming trends. Erich Fischer and Christoph Schaer of the ETH Zurich technical university predicted the frequency of heatwave days will rise from an average of about two days per summer for the period 1961-1990 to around 13 days for 2021-2050. For the period 2071-2100, there will be 40 heatwave days per summer. "In terms of health impacts, our projects are most severe for low-altitude river basins in southern Europe and for the Mediterranean coasts, affecting many densely populated urban centres," the pair say. In 2003, about 40,000 people were killed by a devastating heatwave that gripped Europe.
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