Drought in AfricaEdit
Between July 2011 and mid-2012, a severe drought affected the entire East Africa region. Said to be "the worst in 60 years", the drought caused a severe food crisis across Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya that threatened the livelihood of 9.5 million people. Many refugees from southern Somalia fled to neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia, where crowded, unsanitary conditions together with severe malnutrition led to a large number of deaths. Other countries in East Africa, including Sudan, South Sudan and parts of Uganda, were also affected by a food crisis.
Weather conditions over the Pacific, including an unusually strong La Niña, have interrupted seasonal rains for two consecutive seasons. The rains failed in 2011 in Kenya and Ethiopia, and for the previous two years in Somalia. In many areas, theprecipitation rate during the main rainy season from April to June, the primary season, was less than 30% of the average of 1995–2010. The lack of rain led to crop failure and widespread loss of livestock, as high as 40%–60% in some areas, which decreased milk production as well as exacerbating a poor harvest. As a result, cereal prices rose to record levels while livestock prices and wages fell, reducing purchasing power across the region. Rains were also not expected to return until September of the year. The crisis is compounded by rebel activity around southern Somalia from the Al-Shabaab group.
The head of the United States Agency for International Development, Rajiv Shah, stated that climate change contributed to the severity of the crisis. "There's no question that hotter and drier growing conditions in sub-Saharan Africa have reduced the resiliency of these communities." On the other hand, two experts with the International Livestock Research Institutesuggested that it was premature to blame climate change for the drought. While there is consensus that a particularly strong La Niña contributed to the intensity of the drought, the relationship between La Niña and climate change is not well-established and
A recent Save the Children assessment in Niger showed families in the worst-hit areas were already struggling with a third less food, money and fueFigures compiled by the Department for International Development (DfID) suggest that between 50,000 and 100,000 people, more than half of them children under five, died in the 2011 Horn of Africa crisis that affected Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya.l than is necessary to survive. Early warning systems in the Sahel region show that overall cereal production is 25% lower than the previous year and food prices are 40% higher than the five-year average. The last food crisis in the region, in 2010, affected 10 million people," the report warns and East Africa is about as far from the Central Pacific Ocean as a person can get without leaving the planet. And yet, as the Pacific chills, drought grips East Africa in classic La Niña style. Because of global teleconnections, La Niña has to power to affect the weather half a world away.
This image, from France’s SPOT satellite, shows severe drought in Somalia, Kenya, and southern Ethiopia. The image is a vegetation anomaly, a measure of how well plants were growing compared to average. This image compares plant growth between January 1 and 10, 2011, compared to the average growth for January between 1999 and 2009. Widespread brown is an indication that plant growth slowed, with fewer photosynthesizing leaves than average.
A typical December in much of East Africa is rainy, the end of a 3-month rainy period before a dry stretch that usually lasts from January to March. In 2010, however, the rains were erratic and ended in early November. December was hot and dry. Two thirds of Somalia received less than 75 percent of normal rainfall, reported the UN-funded Somalia Water and Land Information Management program. Without rain, the pastureland and cropland in the region produced poor crops and little grass for livestock, leading to food shortages and livestock deaths, said the United Nations.
Poor or failed rainfall during the short rain growing season (October to December) is a classic La Niña signal. In late 2010, a strong La Niña cooled surface waters in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean, while allowing warmer water to build in the western Pacific. The pool of warm water in the east intensifies rains in Australia, thePhilippines, and Indonesia. Domino-style, this pattern also increases the intensity of westerly winds over the Indian Ocean, pulling moisture away from East Africa toward Indonesia and Australia. The result? Drought over most of East Africa and floods and lush vegetation in Australia and other parts of Southeast Asia.
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