OVERVIEW: Climate change and air quality

Environmental Management Framework

Development and the Environment

Soil and Land



Water Resources

Biological Diversity

Human Habitat

Climate Change

Climate change and air quality

Malawi has been experiencing significant variations in weather pattems, ranging from severe drought conditions to extreme flood events. These extreme variations seriously affect agricultural production and development, on which Malawi's economy depends. The climate of Malawi and in particular changes in the distribution of rainfall are strongly influenced by pressure and wind systems governed by movement of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) and associated belts of distribution. Disturbances of the ITCZ and shifts in the global circulation pattem, as well as deforestation lead to climatic changes. The El Nino Southem Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon has recently had a lot of impact.

When weather changes are certain or when drought strikes, a number of measures are put in place to mitigate the effects. These include: staggering planting dates for main crops; planting suitable varieties such as for drought tolerance and early maturity; introduction of drought relief programmes; rationing of hydroelectric power and water use restrictions.

Monitoring and data gathering on climatic changes in Malawi plays a critical role in agricultural planning and production. However, current agro-ecological zones were identified at a stage when all the necessary variables were less well known.

Global weather and climatic changes emanating from the continued release of greenhouse gasses (GHG) into the atmosphere is recognised to have adverse impact on the ecological and production systems. Although the output of GHG from Malawi is comparably less than in developed countries, agriculture and livestock sectors, industrial activities in major cities, and domestic wood fuel use are noted as the major sources of these gases. The over-dependence on wood-fuel results in clearing of extensive areas of forest every year to meet the daily energy needs, leading to an accelerated removal of sinks for GHGs, leaving the gases to concentrate in the atmosphere, and cause global warming.

Although the quality of air appears to be a less Important problem at the moment, it appears to be a growing concern due to expanding fleet of motor vehicles and rising industrial activities in urban areas.


  • further research and monitoring of climatic changes and the extent of their impact is needed to establish the cyclical changes in weather patterns affecting Malawi;

  • it may be useful to apply Geographical Information System (GIS) techniques in order to delineate the country into more appropriate agro-ecological zones with climatic information playing an important role. 

 Contents | Foreword  | Acknowlegdements | Editorial Process 
Contributors | Preface | Acronyms  | Overview
Chapters: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 |References
Chapter References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9Appendix 1