Examples of Expanding Deserts and Drought Disasters

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Global climate change is causing many areas on the planet that were previously experiencing temperate climates to suffer drought conditions. Drought is very different from normal desert processes. A drought is a prolonged reduction in the amount of rainfall for a region. It is one of the slowest of all major natural disasters to affect people, but it is also among the most severe, causing more deaths, famine, and displacement than most other more spectacular disasters.

Drought often presages the expansion of desert environments, and regions like Africa's sub-Saharan Sahel have experienced periods of drought and desert expansion and contraction several times in the past few tens of thousands of years. At present much of the Sahara is expanding southward, and peoples of the Sahel have suffered immensely.

Droughts typically begin imperceptibly, with seasonal rains often not appearing on schedule. Farmers and herdsmen may be waiting for the rains to water their freshly planted fields and to water their flocks, but the rains do not appear. Local water sources such as streams, rivers, and springs may begin to dry up until eventually, only deep wells are able to extract water out of groundwater aquifers. This is typically not enough to sustain crops and livestock, so they begin to be slaughtered or die of starvation and dehydration. Crops do not grow, and natural vegetation begins to dry up and die. Brush fires often come next, wiping away the dry brush. Soon people start to become weak, and they can not manage to walk out of the affected areas, so they stay, and the

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weak, elderly, and young of the population may die off. Famine and disease may follow, killing even more people.

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