As har­mat­tan sets in

Daily Trust - - OPINION -

Novem­ber of ev­ery year ush­ers in the har­mat­tan sea­son in this part of the world which lasts into the first two or three months of next year. Har­mat­tan brings with it hot, dry and dusty winds that blow across West Africa from the Sa­hara Desert into the Gulf of Guinea. Har­mat­tan sea­son is also as­so­ci­ated with low hu­mid­ity. As a re­sult, the weather is harsh to the skin and body. The skin is dry and lips crack. Stud­ies have also shown that some mi­cro-or­gan­isms that cause dis­eases abound dur­ing har­mat­tan pe­riod.

Har­mat­tan dust par­ti­cles ag­gra­vate res­pi­ra­tory tract in­fec­tions, eye ir­ri­ta­tions, pneu­mo­nia, catarrh, cough and other ail­ments. Asth­matic pa­tients, in par­tic­u­lar, are prone to suf­fer dur­ing har­mat­tan. While me­te­o­rol­o­gists are al­ready pre­dict­ing more in­tense har­mat­tan haze than was ex­pe­ri­enced last year, we ad­vise peo­ple to limit their ex­po­sure to dust. Peo­ple should also take more liq­uid, es­pe­cially wa­ter, dur­ing har­mat­tan to pre­vent de­hy­dra­tion and heat­stroke. Air-con­di­tion­ers should also be ser­viced to avoid in­duc­ing har­mat­tan symp­toms.

Peo­ple should ob­serve high level of per­sonal hy­giene as the in­fec­tion is of­ten spread from per­son to per­son through sneez­ing and cough­ing. Win­dows, fans should be wiped with wet rags. Sickle cell anaemia pa­tients should take pre­cau­tion and keep warm as much as pos­si­ble to pre­vent a cri­sis. The skin can be kept healthy by ap­pli­ca­tion of oily creams and weather friendly cloth­ing. Lip balms or the ap­pli­ca­tion of Vase­line to the soles of the feet will pre­vent them from crack­ing. Wear­ing warm clothes will keep us warm and pro­tect us from the se­vere cold. Proper eye hy­giene by rins­ing with clean wa­ter and re­duc­ing ex­po­sure to the dust by wear­ing pro­tec­tive spec­ta­cles is also ad­vised.

The har­mat­tan has some pos­i­tive sides. For ex­am­ple, a se­vere har­mat­tan sea­son is a pre­cur­sor to good agri­cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties and rich har­vest. Fruit trees like man­goes, av­o­cado, guava, among oth­ers blos­som with flow­ers and fruit dur­ing har­mat­tan. Tra­di­tion­ally, farm­ers use the pe­riod to clear farms and get them ready for plant­ing.

But we should also be wary of fire in­ci­dents dur­ing this pe­riod. This is the sea­son of bush burn­ing in prepa­ra­tion for the next crop­ping sea­son and catch­ing of ro­dents but in the process we de­stroy use­ful for­est cover as well as wildlife and small an­i­mals. Bush burn­ing also has neg­a­tive ef­fects on soil con­di­tions; it re­duces the nu­tri­ents and ma­nure in our farm­lands and soils may take much longer to re­cover, thus lead­ing to de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion. Bush fires could also run out of con­trol and af­fect vil­lages and towns.

Har­mat­tan sea­son is also un­friendly to avi­a­tion. Air­craft pi­lots have been urged to ex­er­cise max­i­mum re­straint on ob­ser­va­tion of strong sur­face wind, fog or har­mat­tan haze. Where vis­i­bil­ity falls be­low the pre­scribed min­i­mum, NCAA has said flight op­er­a­tions are likely to be de­layed, di­verted or out rightly can­celled. Mid­way into the em­ber months, peo­ple are pre­par­ing for mass travel, hence the need for ad­di­tional cau­tion. At Ilorin air­port for in­stance, the air-to-ground vis­i­bil­ity has con­sis­tently dropped in the last cou­ple of days mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for safe flight op­er­a­tions.

As cli­mate change pro­ceeds, stake­hold­ers, who pro­vide so­ci­ety with the in­for­ma­tion needed to man­age the risks and costs as­so­ci­ated with cli­mate change are watch­ing with in­ter­est the emerg­ing abil­ity to pre­dict how global warm­ing will change, or has changed, the prob­a­bil­ity and mag­ni­tude of ex­treme weather and other cli­mate-re­lated events. Ex­treme weather and chang­ing weather pat­terns, the ob­vi­ous man­i­fes­ta­tions of global cli­mate change, do not sim­ply re­flect eas­ily iden­ti­fi­able changes in Earth’s en­ergy bal­ance such as a rise in at­mo­spheric tem­per­a­ture. Solid un­der­stand­ing of these fac­tors is cru­cial if re­searchers are to im­prove the per­for­mance of, and con­fi­dence in, the cli­mate mod­els on which event at­tri­bu­tion and longer term cli­mate pro­jec­tions de­pend. Here’s wish­ing all Nige­ri­ans a healthy and stress-free har­mat­tan sea­son.

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