Record Locust Swarms Hint at What’s to Come with Climate Change

An increased number of cyclones in the past 3 years in the Indian Ocean has played a role in the current upsurge in locust activity.

County Sustainability Group

Warming oceans that feed cyclones have also bred record-breaking swarms of desert locusts. Such plagues could grow bigger and more widespread with climate change.

The locust attacks of 2019–2020 are the worst of the past 30 years. Credit: Sarwar Panhwar

In mid-June, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) issued a threat level warning to countries across East Africa and southwest Asia: Desert locusts (Schistocerca gregaria) are swarming. A severe outbreak that started in 2019 has spread across the Horn of Africa and the Middle East before moving on to western Asia. Scientists say climate change has played a role in this invasion.

This year’s locust attacks, which spread from Kenya to Pakistan and India, are the worst in the past 30 years.

Usually solitary, locusts become gregarious, or swarm, when there are heavy rains in an arid region. Desert locust swarms are highly destructive, sparing no…

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