Research Brief

Population and Environment

, Volume 35, Issue 3, pp 323-339

First online:

A spatial analysis of population dynamics and climate change in Africa: potential vulnerability hot spots emerge where precipitation declines and demographic pressures coincide

  • David López-CarrAffiliated withDepartment of Geography, University of California Santa Barbara Email author 
  • , Narcisa G. PricopeAffiliated withDepartment of Geography and Geology, University of North Carolina Wilmington
  • , Juliann E. AukemaAffiliated withNational Center for Ecological Analysis & Synthesis (NCEAS), University of California Santa Barbara
  • , Marta M. JankowskaAffiliated withDepartment of Family and Preventative Medicine, Center for Wireless and Population Health Systems, University of California, San Diego
  • , Christopher FunkAffiliated withUnited States Geological Survey, University of California Santa Barbara
  • , Gregory HusakAffiliated withDepartment of Geography, University of California Santa Barbara
  • , Joel MichaelsenAffiliated withDepartment of Geography, University of California Santa Barbara

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We present an integrative measure of exposure and sensitivity components of vulnerability to climatic and demographic change for the African continent in order to identify “hot spots” of high potential population vulnerability. Getis-Ord Gi* spatial clustering analyses reveal statistically significant locations of spatio-temporal precipitation decline coinciding with high population density and increase. Statistically significant areas are evident, particularly across central, southern, and eastern Africa. The highly populated Lake Victoria basin emerges as a particularly salient hot spot. People located in the regions highlighted in this analysis suffer exceptionally high exposure to negative climate change impacts (as populations increase on lands with decreasing rainfall). Results may help inform further hot spot mapping and related research on demographic vulnerabilities to climate change. Results may also inform more suitable geographical targeting of policy interventions across the continent.


Climate change Population Vulnerability Hazards Africa Spatial modeling