Drought

Drought in Southern Africa

Southern Africa is in the midst of its most severe drought in 35 years, and according to a UN climate envoy, things are forecast to worsen over the months ahead.

Following a four-day trip to Mozambique, special envoy on El Niño and climate change Macharia Kamau said “[t]he crisis has yet to peak.” He highlights that the devastating drought will be at its worst at or near January of 2017.

Approximately 18 million people have been affected by the drought’s widespread impacts, region-wide. Among the worst-hit countries is Mozambique, with 1.5 million suffering from extreme heat. Zimbabwe, Malawi, Lesotho, and southern Madagascar also fall in the same group.

For many children, women and the elderly, the next few months will be about looking at survival straight in the face. Parts of Mozambique have been water-starved for years — with certain areas seeing no rainfall for as much as three years, the nation’s disaster management agency reports.

El Niño, which affects rainfall patters by influencing flooding and drought, has been pegged as the cause of the detrimental drought.

Drought

Drought in Southern Africa

Low water levels at Victoria Falls highlight southern Africa’s worst drought in 30 years Tourists post pictures on social media of iconic falls known as “The Smoke That Thunders” looking decidedly tame as farmers endure record drought that will cause hunger across the continent.

Southern Africa is in the grip of an historic drought which has slashed crop production, killed cattle, shut off water supplies to rural communities and even diminished the mighty Victoria Falls on the Zambia-Zimbabwe border to a shadow of its former self.

A view of Victoria Falls from the Zambian side, where the ‘smoke that thunders’ is a shadow of its usual self:

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Official data from the Zambezi River Authority shows that flows were 20 per cent lower on January 18 than the previous year, and that Lake Kariba, the world’s largest manmade reservoir that sits upstream of Victoria Falls, is only 12 per cent full at present. The dam that sits across the lake supplies both Zambia and Zimbabwe with up to half of its power and yet ZRA said water levels were within two metres of its massive hydropower plants having to be shut down.

Both countries are already feeling the effects. Zambia relies on hydroelectricity for 99.7 per cent of its power in total.

Meanwhile in Zimbabwe, a similar power crisis means that urban residents go without electricity for more than 18 hours a day, with a knock-on effect for industry and business. At least 7,000 cattle are reported to have already died and northern herders are reportedly driving their animals into the country’s national parks, meaning they will compete with wildlife for scarce food resources.

Earlier this month it was revealed that Robert Mugabe’s cash-strapped government has struck a secret deal to buy expensive power from Eskom, the state power firm of its southern neighbour South Africa. The move prompted outrage from South Africans who have also been blighted by a lack of capacity this year, leading to frequent “load shedding” power cuts.

South Africa’s drought is said to be the worst for at least 27 years. Five provinces are close to being declared disaster zones because of a lack of water and citizens’ groups have been organising whip-rounds for water trucks to conduct deliveries to rural areas. The country will also be forced to import an unprecedented five to six million tonnes of corn, its staple, from overseas.

Drought

Drought and Hunger in Southern Africa

The United Nations (UN) World Food Programme (WFP) is increasingly concerned about food security in southern Africa where an estimated 14 million people are facing hunger following prolonged dry spells.

These dry conditions, caused by the El Niño weather event, led to a poor harvest. El Niño, which is leading to an even worse drought across the region, is affecting this year’s crop.

With little or no rain falling in many areas, the window for the planting of cereals is closing fast or already closed in some countries.

“South Africa, the major breadbasket of the region, has indicated that this El Niño-induced drought is the worst the country has suffered in more than half a century,” said the WFP.

2.8m in Malawi need food, 1.9m in Madagascar and 1,5m in Zim. A third of Lesotho’s people face problems.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

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Tropical cyclone (tc) 07p (Niko), located approximately 151 nm north of Papeete, Tahiti, is tracking south-southeastward at 07 knots.

NewsBytes:

Southern Africa – The number of people affected by severe flooding in southern Africa continues to rise, and more rain is predicted. Malawi has reported 50 deaths and 153 missing, Mozambique 84 fatalities and Madagascar – which has been battered by Tropical Storm Chedza. The overall number of people affected in these countries stands at 638,000 in Malawi (121,000 of whom have been displaced from their homes), 90,000 in Mozambique and 100,000 in Madagascar.

Global Warming

Ozone Hole Over Antarctica Caused Southern Africa Warming

The infamous hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica may have caused warming in southern Africa over the past two decades, researchers say.

However, as the hole in the ozone layer continues to shrink due to international policies that limit the chemicals that eat away at the ozone, temperatures may cool down in southern Africa, the study researchers also said.

Ozone is a cousin to the oxygen molecules people breathe, consisting of three atoms of oxygen instead of the regular oxygen molecule’s two. This gas is concentrated in a layer about 12 to 19 miles (20 to 30 kilometres) above Earth’s surface. This ozone layer absorbs most of the ultraviolet light from the sun, helping to defend people against sunburns and skin cancer.

Now, researchers have found that the ozone hole may be linked to warming in southern Africa.

Previously, scientists found that surface air temperatures in southern Africa had risen significantly over the past two decades, mostly in the early summer. Investigators had suggested this heating was due to the global warming caused by human-linked greenhouse-gas emissions changing climate around the planet. However, climate models hinted that global-warming effects from greenhouse gases should not differ between seasons in southern Africa, but instead be uniform throughout the year.

Scientists recently found that the ozone hole might help boost global warming slightly. By letting more energy penetrate deeper into the atmosphere, the ozone hole apparently shifted wind patterns over Antarctica. This shift pushed clouds closer to the South Pole, affecting how much of the sun’s radiation the clouds reflect and, in turn, slightly warming the planet.

Effects on southern Africa

To see if the ozone hole might also explain the warming in southern Africa, scientists compared climate data on southern Africa from before the development of the ozone hole with the climate data from after the ozone hole had developed. They found that the ozone hole would have altered Southern Hemisphere wind patterns. These changes, in turn, would have intensified the Angola Low, a low-pressure system in the atmosphere mostly located over Angola, situated on the west coast of southern Africa. This, in turn, would have led warm air from near the equator to flow into southern Africa.

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Environment

The southward shift of an atmospheric belt in the Southern Hemisphere since the 1970s is reportedly the reason why parts of Australia and southern Africa are drying out. The southward expansion of a meteorological feature known as the Hadley cell is most pronounced in autumn.

Hadley Cell

The southward shift of between 125 and 250 miles has resulted in less rainfall during April and May over southeastern Australia, and to a lesser extent over southern Africa.

Rain that previously would fall 125 to 250 miles farther north is now being directed that distance to the south due to climate change’s effect on the Hadley cell.

It is not known specifically what is causing the shift, and climate models have not accurately represented it.

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The week’s hottest temperature was 111.2 degrees Fahrenheit (44.0 degrees Celsius) at Nouakchott, Mauritania. This was a record high for the date and for the month of October.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 89.1 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 67.3 degrees Celsius) at Russia’s Vostok Antarctic research station.