Early, Heavy Rains Expected in the Greater Horn of Africa Following a 3-Year Drought, Thanks to El Nino

Early, Heavy Rains Expected In The Greater Horn Of Africa Following A 3-year Drought, Thanks To El Nino

Down To Earth
By Kiran Pandey
Tuesday August 29, 2023

There is also a high likelihood of severe weather-related destruction. Photo: iStock There is also a high likelihood of severe weather-related destruction. Photo: iStock

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The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC) has forecasted heavy rainfall for the Greater Horn of Africa from October to December 2023.

This forecast was made during the 65th Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum (GHACOF65), which was organized by ICPAC in collaboration with the region’s National Meteorological and Hydrological Services.

ICPAC attributes the abnormal wet conditions in the Greater Horn of Africa to El Nino. This region includes Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.

“The devastating drought caused by the three-year La Nina event may be replaced by heavy rains due to the new El Nino event, which typically brings wetter conditions to East Africa,” stated Wilfran Moufouma Okia, head of regional climate prediction services at WMO.

“Another climate phenomenon called the Indian Ocean Dipole is also developing over the Indian Ocean, which may amplify the effects of El Nino,” he added.

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

The forecast indicates that southern Ethiopia, eastern Kenya, and southern Somalia are likely to experience above-average rainfall.

On the other hand, southwestern Uganda and southwestern South Sudan are expected to have below-average rainfall.

Eritrea, central and northern Ethiopia, Djibouti, western Kenya, significant parts of South Sudan and Sudan, and northern Uganda are all forecasted to have below-average rainfall until the end of the season.

The crucial rainfall season from October to December contributes 20-70% of the annual total rainfall in the equatorial parts of the Greater Horn of Africa.

However, in some regions, the rainy season may occur earlier than usual. These areas include eastern Kenya, southern Somalia, and eastern Tanzania.

Conversely, some regions might experience average or delayed rainfall, such as northern Somalia, western Kenya, Uganda, southern South Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, and northwestern Tanzania, according to ICPAC’s seasonal outlook.

According to the WMO, El Nino is likely to result in hotter temperatures worldwide, including Africa.

Furthermore, the ICPAC forecast predicts higher-than-usual average surface temperatures in most parts of the Greater Horn of Africa, particularly in Djibouti, Eritrea, northern Ethiopia, northern Somalia, and coastal Tanzania.

Blessing or Curse?

While the heavy rainfall might be seen as a blessing and good news for farmers and the agriculture sector after three years of drought, ICPAC Director Guleid Artan warns that it can quickly turn into a curse.

Artan points out that desert locusts are already increasing to alarming levels in some parts of the region.

Moreover, there is a high probability of extreme weather-induced devastation, similar to what the region experienced during the last El Nino event in 2015-16.

In May 2016, the El Nino was responsible for devastating summer rains in Ethiopia, as recognized by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Given these risks, Artan advises governments and disaster management agencies to be prepared for events like landslides and flash floods caused by torrential rains. It is crucial to take all necessary measures to protect lives and livelihoods.

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