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Increased likelihood of a dry June to September season in parts of East Africa

  • Alert
  • East Africa
  • June 4, 2014
Increased likelihood of a dry June to September season in parts of East Africa

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Current forecasts suggest an increased likelihood of below-average June to September rainfall in many areas of East Africa and an increased likelihood of flooding along the Nile and its tributaries in South Sudan and Sudan.

    • If these forecasts are realized, main season harvests in Sudan and South Sudan, and to a lesser extent, in Ethiopia and Kenya could be negatively affected.

    • Given poor rainfall in recent months and high levels of existing food insecurity, particularly in South Sudan and Sudan, contingency planning should begin immediately.

    The May 26 forecast released by the Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum (GHACOF) provides a probabilistic rainfall forecast for the June to August 2014 period. This forecast divides the region into three areas: Area I is expected to be seasonably dry, Area II is expected to receive average to below-average rainfall, and Area III is forecast to receive average to above-average rainfall (Figure 1). National forecasts from Sudan, Kenya, and Ethiopia reach similar conclusions (Figures 3 to 5). The GHACOF also identified 2006 and 2009 as analogue years when atmospheric conditions were similar to this year. The coming El Niño is cited as a major driver of the GHACOF forecast and poor rainfall in the region’s northern sector during past El Niño events is highlighted. Finally, the forecast notes that many areas of the region have already received poor rains during the past three months (Figure 2).

    In South Sudan, a major food security emergency is ongoing in Unity, Upper Nile, and Jonglei States.  While the GHACOF forecast is positive for the Southwest, an important surplus-producing zone, it suggests an increased likelihood of below-average rainfall in the conflict-affected areas, where displacement and seed shortages have already compromised land preparation and planting. The identified analogue years, especially 2009, were poor production years in South Sudan. In addition, though conditions in the Northeast are expected to be relatively dry, flood risk in this area remains higher than usual given the forecast for average to above average rainfall in the Ethiopian highlands.

    In Sudan, the regional and national forecasts both suggest average to below average rainfall across the country. Given the country’s very poor cereal harvest last year and prevailing high cereal prices, a below-average rainy season could have significant food security impacts. Darfur, North Kordofan, and areas hosting IDPs are of most concern. As with South Sudan, heavy rainfall in the Ethiopian highlands could result in significant flooding along the Nile.

    Other areas of concern include: 1) the northeastern highlands and Afar in Ethiopia, 2) western Djibouti, 3) the “Greater Illemi Triangle” including Turkana, Karamoja, southwestern Ethiopia, and southeastern South Sudan, 4) surplus-producing areas of western Kenya, and 5) Rwanda and Burundi. Many of these areas have already experienced drier than usual conditions over recent months. In Kenya, the Ministry of Agriculture is predicting a significant decline in maize production this year, below-average rainfall persists through July.

    Given current forecasts, rainfall to date, and existing levels of acute food insecurity, contingency planning should begin immediately, particularly in areas at risk of flooding and in South Sudan, where the food security impacts of the current forecast could manifest themselves most quickly. FEWS NET will continue to monitor available forecasts and seasonal progress and will provide an updated forecast analysis in late July.


    Figure 1

    Figure 1. GHA Climate Outlook Forum forecast for June-August 2014

    Source: ICPAC

    Figure 2

    Figure 2. Mar-May 2014 rainfall (% of avg.)

    Source: FEWS NET/NOAA

    Figure 3

    Figure 3. Sudan rainfall forecast for June-September 2014

    Source: Sudan Meteorological Authority

    Figure 4

    Figure 4. Ethiopia rainfall forecast for June-September 2014

    Source: Ethiopian National Meteorology Agency

    Figure 5

    Figure 5. Kenya rainfall forecast for June-August 2014

    Source: Kenya Meteorological Department

    FEWS NET will publish an Alert to highlight a current or anticipated shock expected to drive a sharp deterioration in food security, such that a humanitarian food assistance response is imminently needed.

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