The Chief Forecaster at the Ghana Meteorological Agency (GMet), Felicity Ahafianyo, has stated that heat waves are not officially recognised as a meteorological phenomenon in Ghana.

She suggests that Ghana is familiar with enduring higher temperatures, which can be significantly hotter compared to temperate regions.

"Heat wave is not a known meteorological phenomenon to Ghana.  However we are used to high temperatures that can be very extremely hot to temperate region," said Felicity.

After numerous Ghanaians voiced their worries regarding recent warming trends, particularly during nighttime, Felicity responded to JoyNews' Mahmud Mohammed-Nurudeen, addressing concerns that some mainstream media publications and social media comments referred to as a "heatwave." Felicity refuted this notion, asserting that such a phenomenon is not recognized in Ghana.

Existing data indicates that from mid-February to May each year, Southern Ghana typically registers maximum temperatures ranging from 33 to 37/38 degrees Celsius. In the Northern region, temperatures can surpass 40 degrees Celsius, which Felicity emphasized are common occurrences.

"Northern Ghana records 37- 42/43 . 39, 40 degrees Celsius are common figures for Northern Ghana, e.g. Bolgatanga, Navrongo, Tamale, Wa, Yendi, Bawku etc."

According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), heatwaves are characterized by periods of unusually hot weather that can persist from a few days to several months, during which both maximum and minimum temperatures are abnormally high for a specific location. The significance of minimum temperatures should not be overlooked, as cooler nights allow the body to recover; however, if nights are exceptionally warm, higher temperatures will be experienced earlier in the day and for longer durations.

Heatwaves have been observed to expand into new regions of the world and occur at times of the year that are not typically associated with such extreme heat. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that with continued global warming, the world should anticipate an increase in the intensity, frequency, and duration of heatwaves.

Heatwaves intersect with multiple risks, including droughts, fire weather, flash flooding, and air pollution, leading to compounded impacts on both people and the environment.

Considered one of the most perilous natural weather phenomena, intense heatwaves present significant risks to human health, society, the environment, and the economy.

According to a 2022 study, it was estimated that over 60,000 individuals in Europe alone succumbed to heat-related stress. Heatwaves have profound impacts on human health and well-being, public safety, infrastructure, and the natural environment. These extreme heat events have intensified in urban areas, exacerbating air pollution episodes and disrupting critical infrastructure operations.

The broader adverse effects of heatwaves encompass agriculture productivity, labor productivity, water sanitation, damage to critical infrastructure, wildlife and animal mortality, biodiversity loss, and limitations on outdoor activities and exposure.

In 2022, China experienced its most prolonged heatwave on record, lasting over 70 days. Similarly, devastating heatwaves in India and Pakistan in 2022 were attributed to climate change, making them 30 times more likely. Furthermore, the UK witnessed record-breaking temperatures during heatwaves in 2022, surpassing the previous national high of 38.7°C.

In 2018, over 220 million vulnerable individuals were exposed to heatwaves. Vulnerable populations, including the elderly, pregnant women, infants, outdoor workers, and athletes, face heightened risks from extreme heat events.

Urban areas may experience temperatures that are 5°C to 10°C higher than nearby regions, amplifying the intensity of heatwaves and the risks they pose.

WMO's response

The WMO facilitates international collaboration in characterizing and disseminating information about heatwaves, while also verifying record-breaking temperatures. It collaborates closely with its National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHS) members to enhance prediction accuracy and modernize early warning systems for extreme events, including heatwaves. This enables countries to coordinate and implement heat action plans at the local community level effectively.

The publication of the heat-health warning (WMO-No.1142), developed jointly by the WMO and WHO, offers practical guidance on addressing human health impacts and issuing warnings related to extreme heat, such as heatwaves.

The WMO serves as a co-sponsor of the Global Heat Health Information Network, playing a vital role in fostering partnerships, facilitating knowledge exchange, engaging with users, and promoting collaboration in addressing heat-related challenges.

CCCFS’ response on higher temperature in Ghana

The Centre for Climate Change & Food Security (CCCFS), is advocating a sustainable housing plan to counteract potential temperature increases in the future.

According to a policy brief shared with JoyNews, the document highlights sustainable housing practices as a crucial strategy for both adapting to and mitigating the impacts of climate change.

Over the recent weeks, Ghanaians have been experiencing the palpable consequences of warming conditions, particularly the discomfort arising from rising nighttime temperatures.

Acknowledging the pressing need for action, the CCCFS policy brief emphasises the need to adopt sustainable solutions to tackle these challenges.

Blueprint for Change: CCCFS Recommendations.

The policy brief urges the adoption of sustainable housing systems integrating climate-responsive designs. This includes enhancements in insulation, natural ventilation, and the use of materials regulating indoor temperatures and mandating the planting of shade trees for every new house construction is proposed.

This, not only aids in carbon sequestration but also offers natural shading, reducing both indoor and outdoor temperatures.

The CCCFS emphasises the critical need for stringent measures against illegal gold mining, which poses a significant threat to existing forests.

Architects and builders are encouraged to curtail excessive glazing in building structures. While natural light is crucial, excessive glazing contributes to heat gain. The policy brief advocates exploring alternative design strategies to strike a balance.

Research Findings: A Glimpse into CCCFS Discoveries

CCCFS has conducted groundbreaking research spotlighting the indiscriminate felling of remaining trees in urban areas, notably in Greater Kumasi.

This research, set to be published later this year, underscores the paramount importance of preserving existing green spaces for their cooling effects and overall environmental benefits.

Director of Research, Sulemana Issifu, said the removal of trees exacerbates the urban heat island effect, contributing to rising temperatures in affected areas which poses a direct threat to the well-being of residents.

He said the centre is advocating for the robust enforcement of legislation protecting urban trees and proposing strict penalties for unauthorized tree felling.

“Encouraging the creation and maintenance of green spaces within urban planning is crucial to counteract the heat island effect,” he said.

The CCCFS is calling for community awareness programmes to educate citizens on the importance of tree preservation and sustainable practices.

Mr. Issifu stated that, embracing sustainable housing practices and preserving urban green spaces emerge as critical steps to combat Ghana's current warming trend.

He stated that the centre will continue to actively engage with policymakers, communities, and the construction industry to bring these recommendations to life, paving the way for a climate-resilient future.

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DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.

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