Space technology explores large-scale changes to the climate of Africa

An international research team led by Professor Heiko Balzter, Director of the Centre for Landscape and Climate Research from the Department of Geography has mapped the entire African continent south of the Sahara for geographical changes and has discovered that many areas receive drastically different amounts of rainfall today compared to just ten years ago.

The study, 'A conceptual model for assessing rainfall and vegetation trends in sub-Saharan Africa from satellite data’, published in the top-rated International Journal of Climatology, investigated the rainfall and greenness of plants in African regions using satellite mapping technology.

The new concept developed by the research team interprets satellite observations of rainfall and vegetation greenness at the same time..

The findings suggest that areas such as the Congo, Nigeria and Madagascar now receive far less rainfall than they did a decade ago, while other locations such as the Sahel zone have become far greener through increased rainfall.

More rain can lead to a ‘greening up’ of large regions, as was the case in the West African Sahel zone. If rains become scarcer, in dry areas the plants cannot ‘green up’ as much. This effect is large enough to be observed from satellite.