Olakunle Olafioye and Agatha Emeadi
The early onset of rains in Nigeria this year did not come with the much-anticipated respite. After almost three months of excruciating heat following the cessation of rains in the preceding year, the arrival of rains as early as in the first month of the year, was expected to usher in more friendly atmospheric conditions. This has, however, not been the case as many Nigerians seek covers from harsh weather conditions.
Environmentalists have often blamed hot weathers on greenhouse gases which are believed to trap more heat in the earth’s atmosphere, causing average temperature to rise all over the world. Temperatures have risen during the last 30 years, and 2001 to 2010 was the warmest decade ever recorded. As the earth warms up, heat waves become more common in many places, including Nigeria, forcing the people to anxiously wait for early onset of rains.
But the early onset of rains this year appears not to have produced the desired result. And Meteorological experts in the country insist the situation might continue until the soil absorbs enough rainwater. The President, Nigeria Meteorological Society (NMetS), Prof. Clement Akoshile, while reacting to the development explained that more or less moisture in the atmosphere would affect the temperature which would determine whether it would be cool or hot.
“Hot air constantly takes its energy from the earth’s surface and is cooling it. If there is more evaporation, the temperature will drop. If there is less evaporation, the temperature will rise
Akoshile explained further that if the hot cloud cover was not allowing the air to move freely on its own, the weather would continue to be hot.
“Once the earth’s surface becomes dry, it will be difficult for more evaporation to take place. As a result of this, whatever heat that is coming will be heating the surface and end in the air.
“If the moisture were to be retained on the surface of the earth for a long time, then the weather will be cool,’’ he explained.
The NIMetS boss noted that since there were limited amounts of rain at the moment, after the earth has sucked the rain, the surface, after a little while, becomes dry.
He said that the radiation coming from the sun would then heat up the earth’s surface again, causing heat everywhere as the weather becomes hot.
Indeed, the meteorological outlook in Nigeria for the year has been anything but exciting. The anxiety over the high temperature is understandably inimical to man’s survival in several ways. The Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NiMet), while releasing its 2019 Seasonal Rainfall Prediction (SRP) had advised farmers to delay planting in order to avoid having to re-plant their crops.
The Director General of the agency, Professor Sani Abubakar Mashi, while releasing the 2019 SRP, had pointed out that “climate smart agriculture should be the watch word” for Nigerian farmers.
“As the year 2019 is anticipated to be an El Nino year, rainfall deficit with varying magnitude is expected for most part of the country, especially northward. This is expected to have an impact on the timing of the onset and cessation of the growing season. A shorter length of season is expected with below normal rainfall amounts. However, climate smart agriculture should be the watch word” he said.
The NiMet DG said the prediction showed that “the predicted 2019 onset of the growing season is likely to be delayed in most parts of the country. The earliest onset date is predicted to be from March 7, around the coastal region of the South-south. The onset dates are expected to change as we move northwards with areas around Maiduguri, Sokoto, Katsina, Dutse, Potiskum, Kano and Nguru predicted to have onset from June 16.
“The country is expected to experience late onset in most parts, but this delay is likely to be more evident in the northern states. However, normal onset is expected over coastal and some South east states” he explained, adding that, “earliest cessation dates are expected to be from 29th September around the North-western parts of the country.
Mr. Olayiwola Hassan, Managing Director, Hasola Farms, Ota, Ogun State, said NiMet’s prediction does not mean well for farming in Nigeria this year. According to him, the lull in rainfall after early onset portends a serious challenge to farmers. “Prolonged cessation of rainfall after early onset is unhealthy for crops as seeds planted get burnt in the soil. This will result in huge losses, as farmers will have to replant their crops again when the rain stabilizes. But where the farmers lack the resources to re-plant, food shortage is imminent.”
He noted further that the consumers would have to bear the brunt, “because an average commercial farmer will always find a way to shift his loss to the final consumers by a way of hiking the price of his produce.”
There is a more disturbing dimension to the problem. Medical experts have warned that the heat currently being experienced in some parts of the country also poses serious health concerns.
A medical practitioner, Dr Ogbonna Daniel said intense exposure to hot weather could predispose people to certain health challenges such as heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat stroke. According to him, blood rushes to the surface of skin as the body works to cool itself under harsh weather conditions. As a result, less blood reaches the brain, muscle and other vital organs in the body. This can interfere with both your physical strength and your mental capacity, leading, in some cases, to serious danger.
He added that excess heat posed serious health danger to pregnant women. “In pregnancy, there are natural physiological changes that alter the normal regulation of the body’s cardiovascular system. “These include distribution of body fluids such that their blood pressure may be slightly lower during pregnancy. “In cases of extreme heat, pregnant women are more prone to dehydration, which further reduces the amount of blood supply to the woman and the foetus and may manifest as lightheadedness or dizziness,” she said.
He noted further that the hot weather condition could increase the rate of water loss from the skin and mucous membranes could escalate and there was a greater tendency for people to get dehydrated, insisting that it was bad for the kidney. He, therefore, advised Nigerians to guard against excessive exposure to the sun just as he advised them to drink adequate water.
“In order to stay healthy this period, people should take plenty of fluid, at least three litres of water daily.
“Some of the natural things people should do are to reduce the amount of time they spend outside the house, especially when the sun is very hot. It is advisable to stay indoors.
“People should eat foods that are light; reduce intake of too much carbohydrates. Eat more salads, fresh vegetables and fruits and take their bath as many times as possible every day. People, especially children, should endeavour sleep in places where there is sufficient air.
“People should also endeavour to monitor their blood pressure as frequently as possible because prevention is the best way to enjoy good health. Everyone has different natural fight agents to resist or survive harsh weather. Some persons might easily fall ill while others lead near normal life in the face of this unfriendly weather,” he noted.