Drier conditions predicted for Horn of Africa sub-region

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By Judith Akolo

Climate scientists drawn from the Greater Horn of Africa sub-region are predicting a drier than usual short rains season that begins in October and ends in December.

Speaking at the end of the Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum (GHACOF), the Director of the IGAD Climate Predictions and Applications Center (ICPAC) Dr. Guleid Artan said the impacts from the drought could adversely affect food security.

“The food security and nutrition situation is likely to worsen especially in the Arid and Semi-Arid regions, requiring the need for expanding humanitarian assistance and interventions across the region,” said Dr. Artan, adding that, generally, poor rains, late-onset, coupled with other non-climatic drivers like COVID-19, economic shocks, and conflict present poor prospects for farming across the region.

Dr. Artan called for concerted efforts aimed at ensuring that the vulnerable communities are cushioned against the adverse effects of the drought.

“Cumulatively the region has been facing rainfall deficits adding that this will be compounded by non-climatic shocks like Covid-19 and conflicts which could worsen the food security situation in the region,” he said.

The climate scientists from the Greater Horn of Africa countries of; Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda warned that 2021 is expected to continue to be, a drier than usual year for the majority of the region.

According to the scientists, observations of rainfall over the past months reveal that the region has been facing rainfall deficits in many parts of central and southern East Africa “and this is forecasted to continue until December 2021.”

Noting that the start of the season is expected to be delayed by up to two weeks, especially over eastern Kenya and southern Somalia, Dr. Artan said that the forecast indicates that South Sudan, north-western Uganda, and south-western Ethiopia could receive over 200 and 300 mm during the entire season.

“Besides the dry conditions, warmer than usual temperatures are expected across the region,” said Dr. Artan and added that in particular in eastern Kenya to Somalia, eastern parts of Ethiopia, and eastern Sudan are expected to experience dry conditions.

The dry conditions are attributed to the negative Indian Ocean Dipole which is drawing the moisture away from the region. A positive IOD is what encourages rainfall in the Horn of Africa region during the short rains season of October, November and December. When there is a negative IOD the opposite happens where there is reduced rainfall in the region.

The Climate Scientists indicate that the OND season shows that the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the negative IOD is expected to interact with regional circulation patterns in a way that typically depresses seasonal rainfall in the region.

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