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Ivory Coast - Climate

The principal rainy season lasts from mid-May to mid-July. Annual rainfall averages 80-120 inches. Water resources are usually adequate to provide for the country's predominant reliance on hydro-electric power, and for some food crop irrigation. Severe storms resulting in flooding and extended power outages are a concern. In low-lying areas, flooding is a major problem during the rainy season and can lead to blocked and damaged roads. In March 2011, the neighborhood of Riviera Palmeraie, which is close to American residences, experienced severe flooding, stranding many of its residents and severely damaging roads and infrastructure. Flooding in 2014 also resulted in deaths and extensive damage to poorly built homes. There is often a general disregard for environmental standards in Côte d’Ivoire, leaving areas of land and water polluted. The government has made efforts to clean certain visible areas, but large sections of the lagoon and beaches near Abidjan remained littered with pollution and trash.

The climate is generally warm and humid and is, overall, transitional from equatorial to tropical. Seasons are more clearly distinguishable by rainfall and wind direction than by temperature. Continental and maritime air masses, following the apparent movement of the sun from north to south, determine the cycle of the seasons that is associated with heat and cold farther from the equator.

During half of the year, a warm maritime air mass pushes northward across Cote d' Ivoire in response to the movement of the sun. Ahead of it, a low pressure belt, or intertropical front, brings warm air, rain, and prevailing winds from the southwest. As the solar cycle reverses, a dry continental air mass moves southward over the nation, permitting the dusty harmattan to dominate. Surface winds are gentle, seldom exceeding fifteen to twenty kilometers per hour.

Two climatic zones are created by the alternating wind patterns. In the north, rainfall amounts delineate two major seasons. Heavy rains fall between June and October, averaging 110 centimeters annually. Along the coast, four seasons prevail. Some rain falls in most months, with an average of 200 centimeters annually, but four seasons are generally distinguishable. Heavy rains fall between May and July in most years, followed by a short dry season during August and September. A second rainy season comes during October and November, followed by the major dry season from December to April.

Temperatures and humidity generally follow the same pattern, with average temperatures between 25 °C and 30°C and ranges from 10°C to 40°C. Temperatures are higher in the north but may exceed 30°C even in the south. Annual and daily ranges of both temperature and humidity are small along the coast but increase progressively toward the north. The average relative humidity is 85 percent in the south and 71 percent in the north.

With its 550 km, Côte d’Ivoire is - after Nigeria - the West African country with the longest coast. The area is characterised by a rich and unique biodiversity but suffers from an intense pressure generated by human activities such as agro-industry, urbanisation, fishing, tourism, etc. Lately, the effects of global climate change have exacerbated the already existing effects of human pressure on the natural capital. In particular coastal erosion caused by a steadily rising sea level has become a real threat for existing infrastructure and economic activities.

As forecasts on the global effects of climate change suggest further sea level rises, even stronger erosion might be expected for the coming decennia in low-lying coastal zones. Against this background, the country has revised its main policies and strategies for poverty reduction, development and economic revival. Unanimously, these documents put an emphasis on better coastal management, related to sea level rises and coastal erosion (National Development Plan 2012-2015).

Grand Bassam is just a 45-minute drive from Abidjan, a sleepy colonial-era resort town abutting the Atlantic Ocean. The waves crash in here with stunning force. Even during the country's civil war, it was the place Ivorians and expatriates headed to for a weekend of sun and beach. But there is less and less beach as the years go by. Seaside hotels are erecting erosion barriers to stop the ocean's relentless march to their doors. Some local residents say rainy seasons and floods have been more intense in recent years.

Experts say Grand Bassama's location - on the ocean and on the mouth of a river - makes it more vulnerable to floods, and that some of the erosion is natural. Some of it is also caused by small underwater earthquakes. But global warming is exaggerating the phenomenon. And the prognosis for Grand Bassam is grim.

Coastal flooding is not the only climate-change threat facing Ivory Coast. Rains came late this year in the northern part of the country, causing even drought-resistant crops to wither and die. Meanwhile, the southern part was hit by intense rains and flooding in August and September, like other West African countries. While it is difficult to establish an irrefutable link, scientists say extreme weather patterns are characteristic of climate change. And experts say deforestation in Ivory Coast has only worsened the problem. Indeed, some studies suggest that Africa, in particular, may be one of the regions worst hit by global warming in the future. Encroaching deserts will cut the continent's agricultural production and Africans will be among most vulnerable to higher food prices.

But experts say that so far very little assistance has gone to poor countries to fight climate change. And in Ivory Coast, the environment is far from the top of the government's priority list.

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Page last modified: 05-10-2016 20:33:35 ZULU