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Temperature anomalies affect violent conflicts in African and Middle Eastern warm regions

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Several studies have linked high temperatures to increases in violent conflicts. The findings are controversial, however, as there has been no systematic cross-sectional analysis performed to demonstrate the generality of the proposed relationship. Moreover, the timescale of temperature/violence relationships have not been fully investigated; it is unclear how short versus long-term, or seasonal and inter-annual temperature variability contribute to the likelihood or frequency of violent events. We here perform systematic regional and grid-based longitudinal analyses in Africa and the Middle East for the period 1990–2017, using geolocated information on armed conflicts and a recently released satellite-based gridded temperature data set. We find seasonal synchrony between temperature and number of armed conflicts at the regional scale (climatic region), as well as a positive relationship in temperature and conflict anomalies on inter-annual timescales at the grid cell level (for the entire African and ME region). After controlling for ‘location effects’, we do not find that long-term warming has affected armed conflicts for the last three decades. However, the effects of temperature anomalies are stronger in warmer places (~5% increase per 10 °C, P < 0.05), suggesting that populations living in warmer places are more sensitive to temperature deviations. Taken together, these findings imply that projected warming and increasing temperature variability may enhance violence in these regions, though the mechanisms of the relationships still need to be exposed.