After 3 years of drought, Greater Horn of Africa to get early, heavy rains, courtesy El Nino


Down To Earth
Source: Down To Earth By Kiran Pandey
Tuesday August 29, 2023

There is also a very high probability of extreme weather-led devastation. Photo: iStock There is also a very high probability of extreme weather-led devastation. Photo: iStock

The Greater Horn of Africa is likely to get heavy rains from October-December 2023, said the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC) in its forecast.

The forecast was released at the 65th Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum (GHACOF65) held by ICPAC in collaboration with the region’s National Meteorological and Hydrological Services.

ICPAC attributes the wetter-than-usual conditions across most parts of the Greater Horn of Africa to El-Nino. The Greater Horn of Africa region includes Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

“The devastating drought associated with the three-year La Niña event may be replaced by a deluge because of the new El Nino event, which typically means wetter-than-usual conditions in East Africa,” said Wilfran Moufouma Okia, head of regional climate prediction services at WMO in his statement.

“Another climate phenomenon known as the Indian Ocean Dipole is developing over the Indian Ocean and may strengthen the El Nino impacts,” he said.

ICPAC, the climate centre accredited by the World Meteorological Organization, provides climate services to 11 East African countries.

Southern Ethiopia, eastern Kenya and southern Somalia are very likely to experience wetter-than-usual rainfall, according to the forecast.

In contrast, drier-than-usual conditions have been forecast for the isolated areas of southwestern Uganda and southwestern South Sudan.

Below-average rainfall has been forecast until end of the season for Eritrea, central and northern Ethiopia, Djibouti, Western Kenya, significant areas of South Sudan and Sudan, and Northern Uganda.

October to December, the vital rainfall season, especially in the equatorial parts of the Greater Horn of Africa, contributed 20-70 per cent of the annual total rainfall.

But the season may occur early in parts of the region, where elevated rainfall is anticipated. These are eastern Kenya, southern Somalia and eastern Tanzania.

In contrast, the rainfall may be average or even delayed over parts of northern Somalia, western Kenya, Uganda, southern South Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi and north-western Tanzania, according to the seasonal outlook by ICPAC.

El Nino is likely to increase the possibilities of hotter temperatures in many parts of the world, including Africa, according to the WMO.

The ICPAC forecast also showed that the average surface temperature in almost all parts of the Greater Horn of Africa, particularly Djibouti, Eritrea, northern Ethiopia, northern Somalia, and parts of coastal Tanzania is likely to be higher-than-usual.

Blessing or curse?

After experiencing heavy rainfall across much of the region from March to May 2023, increased precipitation from October to December 2023 may contribute to flooding, alerted ICPAC Director Guleid Artan.

The heavy rains, after three dry years and devastating drought, seems to be a blessing and good news for farmers and the agriculture sector.

But, the heavy rainfall can quickly become a curse, warned Artan in his statement. “Desert locusts are already proliferating to alarming levels in parts of the region.”

There is also a very high probability of extreme weather-led devastation, as faced by the region during the last El Nino in 2015-16.

For instance, the El Nino was behind the devastating summer rains in Ethiopia during May 2016, acknowledged the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Artan, on behalf of ICPAC, advised the governments and disaster management agencies to be prepared to tackle incidences like torrential rains-led landslides and flash floods, and take all necessary measures to save lives and livelihoods