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Flooding in Western and Central Africa

Flooding in Western and Central Africa
Flooding in Western and Central Africa

In October 2012, flooding swelled rivers and created a massive floodwater lake in southern Nigeria, but floods were not confined to that region. Floods also affected northern Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured these images of northeastern Nigeria and bordering countries on October 19, 2012 (top), and October 26, 2011 (bottom).

These images use a combination of visible and infrared light to better distinguish between water and land. Water is dark blue, vegetation is bright green, bare ground in pink-beige, and clouds appear are pale blue-green.

The image from 2012 shows higher water levels in the Yobe River along the Niger-Nigeria border, and in the Chari River in Chad. Water is higher along the margins of Lake Chad, which has experienced a long-term decline in water level. A floodwater lake stretches from northern Cameroon into Chad. Green is much more prevalent in the 2012 image, indicating an increase in vegetation.

Although the greater degree of green in 2012 might indicate good news for the region’s farmers, the Assessment Capacities Project (ACAPS) reported food insecurity in Chad, Niger, and Cameroon, in some cases as a result of erratic rainfall over the past few years. In Chad, ACAPS reported, heavy rains in August 2012 had affected more than 460,000 people, harmed crops, and increased the risk of locust infestation. In Niger, flooding had forced more than 527,000 people from their homes, and the country was facing a cholera outbreak as of October. In northern Cameroon, 25,000 people had been affected by recent flooding, despite longer-term impacts of drought. In Nigeria, 1.3 million people had been displaced, and prolonged floods had increased the risk of cholera.

NASA images courtesy LANCE MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption by Michon Scott.

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