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Guinea-Bissau - Climate

The climatic and seasonal variations are very distinct in Guinea-Bissau and follow the general West African climate conditions. It is hot and humid year-round with little fluctuation in average temperature. Data collected at the Bissau station indicates that temperatures range from 16.6C to 38.6C, with the minimum temperatures occurring in January and the maximum temperatures occurring in April.

There are two distinct seasons in Guinea-Bissau, the wet season and the dry season. During the wet season (June to October), most of the average rainfall is accounted for and the winds are predominately southwesterly. The dry season (November to May) accounts for very little rainfall and the winds are predominately northeasterly. The annual total rainfall at the Farim meteorology station in 2012 was 1,594 mm, which is representative of long-term annual precipitation values reported for Bissau. The majority of the rainfall events are short in duration and have a high intensity. Wind speeds are generally light all year round and are typically less than 18 km/h.

Air quality data collected indicates that the air quality is representative of a natural environment with low concentrations of anthropogenic gases. Particulate matter is elevated due to naturally high concentrations of dust. This is further elevated during late November to middle March when the Harmattan winds blow dust from the Sahara in the direction of the study region.

Coastal erosion is a major environmental problem throughout West Africa, but some stretches of the coastline are more severely affected than others. In northwestern Guinea Bissau, coastal zones have eroded rapidly over the past few decades. In Varela, the shoreline has retreated by up to 700 m inland in the past 40 years (see inset above). Both rising sea levels and the destruction of mangrove forests, which act as natural barriers, have been blamed for the loss of land. The loss of mangrove forests is especially visible around Kabrousse and along the coast south of Varela; mangroves have been harvested as fuel wood for smoking fish and for other household needs.

As a result of coastal erosion, trees and infrastructure have been disappearing gradually. Towns and villages located close to the shoreline, where most of the economic activity takes place, are likewise threatened. The ruins of a tourist resort, built in the 1980s, stand as a poignant reminder of the forces of the rising tides.

Due to the severity of coastal erosion in this location, Varela beach was selected as a pilot site for the United NationsAdaptation to Climate Change in Coastal Zones of West Africa project. In the course of the project, afforestation and rehabilitation of tourism potential were carried out with the help of the local population, and a biodiversity library was established in the Varela Environmental Audit School. Studies were also conducted of Varelas coastal biodiversity and ecological and economic vulnerability to erosion.

Coastal erosion in Varela is expected to increase due to the sea level rise of over 10 cm since 1950. Hence, preparedness protection of existing natural barriers, monitoring of the coastline, and creation of alternative income opportunities is paramount

According to Guinea-Bissaus NAPA (2006), the primary drivers of the climate vulnerability of the coastal areas and communities are physical exposure, dependence on agriculture and fishing as main livelihood options, and poor governance. Low-elevation coastal zones are especially vulnerable in Guinea-Bissau. Most of Guinea-Bissaus land consists of coastal swamps and mangroves, and over 19 percent of its land area lies in areas less than 10 meters above sea level. The majority of the population (about 82 %) work as subsistence farmers and climate change has already begun to affect coastal farmers through increased flooding and saltwater encroachment into their rice paddies due to global sea level rise. The coastal communities and the whole population of Guinea-Bissau rely on mangrove stands and coastal lowlands for rice cultivation as a main source of income and food.

One study (Sally Brown and all, 2011) has projected sea-level rises (in comparison of 1995 level) of 0.13 m, 0.35 m, 0.72 m and 1,22 m for 2025, 2050, 2075 and 2100 respectively. With a large and growing population in the coastal zone and a low adaptive capacity due to low national wealth and other development indicators, Guinea-Bissau appears to be highly vulnerable to sea-level rise. Without adaptation, the physical, human and financial impacts will be significant.

Sea-level rise has the potential to displace hundreds of thousands of people over the next 100 years. With a rise of 0.13 m in 2025, 77,800 people will be flooded per year. with a rise of 0.35 m in 2050, 179,800 persons will be flooded per year. The total cos t of sea-level rises for Guinea-Bissau combining costs of forced migration, land loss, salinization, sea floods and river floods will be US$8 million per year for 2025, US$29.9 million per year for 2050 and are estimated at US$361.8 million per year by 2100.

Climate change is predicted to also have adverse effects on fisheries and fishing. Rising sea temperatures and changes in the oceans other dynamics, such as acidification and loss of nursery areas, are predicted to reduce fish populations. Meanwhile, in places with rich fisheries like Guinea-Bissau, the destruction of coral reefs and mangroves destroys fish spawning grounds, decreasing the availability of fish, limiting the livelihoods of fishermen, and leading to precarious food security as sea foods are the main sources of proteins for the coastal communities.

In Guinea-Bissau the impact of those changes were already being felt in the economy for some time, especially due to a diminishing rainfall and the gradual rise in temperature. In terms of water resources, this can be seen in aquifers that had decreasing quantities of water and are more easily flooded by salt water, ground waters increasingly deeper and dried-up lakes; concerning the agrarian sector, production of Guinean staple food (rice), had diminished markedly, also due to the salinity and acidity of hydromorphous soils and the flooding of rice fields.

Due to the fact that climate changes exert a negative influence on the quality and quality of water resources through a reduction in rainfall. 14 projects were chosen in order to achieve these strategic objectives including those on the Diversification of Food Production and the Improvement in the Supply of Potable Water in Rural Areas.

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