African viewpoint: Weather matters

A girl stands under an umbrella with a rainbow behind her in Monrovia, Liberia - (Archive photo: 2003) Residents of West Africa do not need to invest in a winter wardrobe

In our series of viewpoints from African journalists, Ghanaian writer Elizabeth Ohene, who is on a visit to the US, gains a new respect for the seasons.

The weather is not usually a topic of conversation in the part of the world I come from.

We have sunshine and we have rainfall and that about sums up the extent of the weather we get in the tropics.

Alright, so I exaggerate to make a point.

There is the harmattan, a dry desert wind that blows south from the Sahara for several months, there is the rainy season and there is the time when some people wear cardigans, but the truth is, in my part of the world, you do not require different wardrobes for different times of the year.

I have always thought the British, for example, overdo it with their constant talk about the weather. But you only need to endure one of those London days when all four seasons are exhibited within a 24-hour period to see why.

The remains of an apartment building are seen after a massive tornado on 27 May 2011 in Joplin, Missouri The US tornados leave in their trail devastation like that seen in a war zone

All the same, I still thought a television channel devoted solely to the weather was a bit over the top.

But this past week as I have watched the devastation caused by tornadoes in parts of the United States, I have been forced to revise some of my views and to have proper respect for the weather.

This past month, the weather has been truly awesome.

The mighty Mississippi River has reached record heights and flooded towns and farmlands, then the tornado season kicked in with breathtaking fury.

When US President Barack Obama went to see things for himself in one of the Midwestern towns that was first hit, he proclaimed he had never seen devastation like this before, and indeed everybody agreed he was not engaging in hyperbole.

Nature kinder to Africa?

But then it seems every next tornado outstrips the previous one in its fury and the devastation is causes.

There is a tornado season that arrives regularly each year with varying degrees of severity.

When the storm strikes its leaves in its trail devastation like that seen in a war zone or the way one imagines the end of the world would be like.

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The planting season is specific and if you miss it, you will be hungry”

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This is going to be followed by the hurricane season, and then winter will arrive. The ground will be frozen for months and if it is anything like they had this past winter, there will be record snowfalls and freezing temperatures.

The extreme weather makes it imperative that you plan for tomorrow; your summer clothes will not be adequate for the winter and you cannot sleep outside for much of the year.

The planting season is specific and if you miss it, you will be hungry. If you do not have heating in your house, you will freeze to death in some parts of the US.

I had always felt nature was so much kinder to my part of the world, what with our never failing sunshine, constant warmth and impressive dramatic rainfall.

Now I am not so sure.

Can you imagine if we had two weeks of snow every year in Ghana?

The mosquitoes certainly would not survive it and our attitudes would probably change also.

Why would you think of making warm clothing if it was never cold?

I am beginning to pray that we also have the type of weather that requires constant conversation.

If you would like to comment on Elizabeth Ohene's column, please do so below.


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    Comment number 21.

    Interesting Sis. Ohene! Weather makes me wonder how incredible Earth was structured. Didn't want to say "created" to not introduce another view point. I'm certain the professionals will have their day in court to answer why these variances occured in our weather pattern. Human beings can adjust to prevailing conditions. Though born in West African, I have come to love the weather in the west.

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    Comment number 20.

    i was born in swaziland, and grew up in South Africa (pretoria) almost my whole life,but im originally from Sierra Leone.ive travelled almost the whole of africa, and believe me africa's weather is the best! especially west africa, i mean it rains like half of the year and the other half its dry season...and when it rains the whole place is green and the air is smelling so fresh! i love africa!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    People's attitudes are better explained by the confidence they have in the future. So weather differences between places do not explain anything about whether or not you'll plan ahead. People plan ahead only if they believe they'll benefit from future planning. Where authorities are careless with the security of your forward-looking investments why plan ahead? Please write encouraging things.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    When I frist saw snow during my German classes one day in the winter, I just could not belĂ­eve it. I looked at the flakes all the time and finally asked my colleague from Kenya what I was seeing. Then he whispered to me saying "that is snow". We in Africa are blessed with a wonderful whether but we simply do not know what to do with it. We have to use technology to help us feed ourselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    I was told to get ready for winter when I landed in South Africa from Ghana. Winter? In Ghana we know of raining season and harmattan. We plan what we shall wear long ahead in West Africa unlike here where you need to watch the weather forecast and also take into consideration the season and which part of the country you intend visiting. Currently we are in winter and I miss the warmth back home

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Elizabeth Ohene must be kidding....she wants american weather just because of its talking point value ? I think anybody who has lived and experienced the US weather will think that africa surely is blessed with great weather pattern


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