Lake Chad not shrinking, but climate is fuelling terror groups: report

(Climate Change News, 16 May 2019) Satellite analysis shows ‘vanishing’ lake has grown since 1990s, but climate instability is driving communities into the arms of Boko Haram and Islamic State.

Berlin-based think tank adelphi debunked the widely held idea that the lake is currently shrinking. While severe droughts in the 1970s and 80s shrunk the lake from a high-point of 25,000 sq km to 2,000 sq km in the 1990s, it has since grown to 14,000 sq km and remained relatively stable in the past two decades.

The findings draw on new analysis of 20 years of satellite imagery and long-term hydrological data from the Lake Chad basin, including ground measurements.

Previous satellite images underestimated the amount of water in the lake, in part because of the growth of plants that stood in the water, lead author Janani Vivekananda told Climate Home News.

“Different satellites give you different kind of information, and have limitations,” Vivekananda said. “Very often when you’re looking down from 30,000 feet, you miss information such as the water that’s under vegetation cover.” Researchers looked at laser satellite images to probe into the volume of water, she said.

The conflict and humanitarian crisis driven by the “shrinking” lake is often cited as a textbook example of climate change affecting security. But warming remains an important factor, according to the study, which also drew on 200 interviews with local communities.

Rising temperatures – up to one and a half times faster than the global average – and increasingly erratic rain patterns have created food insecurity, ultimately pushing communities into the arms of terrorist groups like Boko Haram or Islamic State West Africa Province.

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Climate Change News, 16 May 2019: Lake Chad not shrinking, but climate is fuelling terror groups: report