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Some in Kenya Point to a Recent Hailstorm as a Sign of Climate Change

Nyahururu town in Laikipia County via Google satellite images, a site of recent hailstorms that mistook thought for snow.

As world leaders made travel arrangements to meet for the annual 2017 G20 summit which took place July 7 and 8 in Hamburg Germany, signs of one of the major topics of discussion at the summit, climate change, was being felt in East Africa.

Residents of a town lying on the equator in Kenya experienced a strange phenomenon: a hailstorm. The white frozen stuff became the subject of heated debate by Kenyans on social media on July 4, as pictures of what appeared to be snow started appearing online having been taken and posted by residents of Nyahururu town in Laikipia County located in Kenya’s Rift Valley region.

Kenya, specifically Laikipia County where the hailstorm was witnessed, lies on the Equator and such an occurrence has never been witnessed in modern memory. The only place in Kenya where such extreme temperatures are seen is on Mount Kenya, East Africa’s second highest mountain after the famous Kilimanjaro in neighboring Tanzania.

Following the viral nature in which the photos and videos from excited commuters were spreading and causing all manner of excitement and speculation on the authenticity of the images and what exactly was being witnessed, Kenya's Meteorological Office, which maintains an active Twitter page, sought to provide clarification on the “snow” folks were witnessing.

And some officials at the Met Office, suggested that the unusual occurrence may be as a result of climate change.

Despite the weather department issuing a statement, Kenyans were not having any of it. To some of them, it was snow.

According to Kenya Meteorological Department, the Nyahururu meteorological station recorded the lowest daily minimum temperature of 4.6°C on June 27. This is the lowest temperature they have ever recorded from that area and for most parts of the country. According to their frequent weather forecast updates, even in the month of July when Kenyans experience the coldest temperatures, the temperature does not fall below 8°C.

Many Kenyans took this an opportunity to “make snow while the hail fell”, so to speak, by sharing all manner of memes with some even linking the hail storm occurrence to the current politically charged climate that has seen the two main political parties, Jubilee and NASA, competing in the coming presidential election, try to outdo each other on their achievements.

Image translation: Buy five kilograms of meat I am coming with the fridge.

A reminder of what's to come?

Although most of the tweets on the Nyahururu hailstorm were of excitement, there are those who did not see the joke, especially when it came to the implications of the incident.

In Europe, as the G20 summit came to a close, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel ended the summit with a rebuke to US President Donald Trump who declined to commit his country to the Paris Climate Change agreement signed by all the other member countries.

According to the Climate Change Vulnerability Index for 2015, seven out of the 10 countries at the highest risk due to climate change are in Africa.

Africa has seen a decrease in rainfall over large parts of Southern Africa. According to environmental movement 350Africa.org, there are eight ways in which climate change is already affecting Africa: changes in weather patterns, water supply and quality, agriculture and food, human health, shelter, vulnerable populations, national security and on ecosystems.

The withdrawal by the US from the G20 summit means that the world’s largest economy will not commit to lowering carbon emissions to prevent the imminent effects of global warming. Africa is expected to bear most of the brunt of these emissions with climatic conditions such as the ones experienced in Nyahururu serving as warning signs of the drastically changing temperatures in the tropics. The worst, many experts say, is yet to come.

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