Climatic Change

, Volume 135, Issue 3–4, pp 555–568 | Cite as

Country-specific effects of climate variability on human migration

  • Clark GrayEmail author
  • Erika Wise


Involuntary human migration is among the social outcomes of greatest concern in the current era of global climate change. Responding to this concern, a growing number of studies have investigated the consequences of short to medium-term climate variability for human migration using demographic and econometric approaches. These studies have provided important insights, but at the same time have been significantly limited by lack of expertise in the use of climate data, access to cross-national data on migration, and attention to model specification. To address these limitations, we link data on internal and international migration over a 6-year period from 9812 origin households in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Senegal to high-resolution gridded climate data from both station and satellite sources. Analyses of these data using several plausible specifications reveal that climate variability has country-specific effects on migration: Migration tends to increase with temperature anomalies in Uganda, tends to decrease with temperature anomalies in Kenya and Burkina Faso, and shows no consistent relationship with temperature in Nigeria and Senegal. Consistent with previous studies, precipitation shows weak and inconsistent relationships with migration across countries. These results challenge generalizing narratives that foresee a consistent migratory response to climate change across the globe.


Nigeria Temperature Anomaly International Migration Land Surface Temperature Climatic Research Unit 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors are grateful for assistance and constructive comments from M. Gutmann and A. Henley. The participation of C.G. was supported by the National Institutes of Health (R00HD061752).

Supplementary material

10584_2015_1592_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (227 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 226 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA

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