As the Mediterranean Sea becomes increasingly warm, extreme tropical weather could displace millions, and with that, alter the geography of North African countries.
Rising global temperatures, driven mainly by greenhouse gas emissions, will result in millions being displaced from the coastal cities of North Africa, according to a study published in the Nature Research Journal.
Melting glaciers and sea caps will raise the global sea levels by dangerous margins by the end of this century. This will mean increasingly extreme weather that could have the effect of displacing coastal communities in Tunisia and Egypt in particular.
The report warns that coastal cities in the Gulf of Tunis, which have a population of more than 2 million, are at higher risk from rising sea levels. They are expected to rise more than one metre by the end of the century.
Egypt, which is the Arab world's most populous nation, is another country that the report says is at a “very high risk” from population displacement as a result of rising sea levels.
Almost 40 million of Egypt’s 100 million population live in the Delta Region, where the Nile River, through hundreds of arteries, spills into the Meditterienian Sea.
This low-lying land has over the past few decades seen unplanned urban development with millions of people packed into land that could now be at risk from flooding.
Analysing the physical and social impact on the coastal areas of North Africa “is crucial for facilitating the implementation of flood risk management and protection for highly populated urban areas, as well as agricultural terrain,” the paper concluded.
“It is crucial to forecast these vulnerabilities in light of the predicted rise of sea surface temperatures, which are resulting in increased coastal flooding from severe weather events in the Mediterranean Basin,” the report added.
Tunisia and Egypt have more than a 70 percent chance of being impacted by rising sea levels. In contrast, Libya, which is nestled between the two states, only has a 7 percent chance.
The authors of the report focused on the increasing incidences of changing weather patterns in the region.
In September 2018, the Tunisian coastal governorate of Nabeul saw large flash floods with as much as 1.7 metres of rain, normally expected to fall in a six month period, falling within one day.
Again in October 2019, the coastal region of Ariana saw floods that brought an average of 90 to 220 mm of rainfall in one hour causing widespread material damage and loss of life.
The study at the Nature Research Journal also found that the Egyptian coastal areas in October 2019 were ravaged by “an extremely uncommon “medicane” bringing tropical-like storm-force winds, heavy rainfall and coastal flooding.”
Since the 1980s, the scientists conducting the study warned that the surface temperatures have increased between 1 and 2 degrees.
The rise in the temperatures is likely to act as a catalyst for future storms in the Mediterranean and in the Black Sea.
“As these repeatedly extreme and unusual phenomena are occurring along highly vulnerable coasts, more urban damage and environmental impacts are being sensed,” the report concludes.