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Increased, unseasonal rainfall forecast in some drought-affected areas

  • Seasonal Monitor
  • East Africa
  • February 17, 2017
Increased, unseasonal rainfall forecast in some drought-affected areas

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  • Key Messages
  • Seasonal Progress
  • Forecast
  • Partner
    Key Messages
    • Vegetation conditions remain very poor in much of East Africa, following very poor rainfall between October and January in many areas, particularly in Somalia, southeastern Ethiopia, northern Kenya, and northeastern Tanzania. Vegetations have continued to deteriorate into February, particularly in the Horn, as the dry season has continued.

    • Southern Tanzania received heavy rains in the past week, which has helped to ease seasonal rainfall deficits. However, Msimu rainfall remains well below average in many unimodal areas of the country, which could affect production in higher-producing areas. 

    • The presence of a tropical cyclone (Dineo), currently located over the Mozambique Channel, is forecast to bring unseasonal moderate to heavy rains across much of Tanzania and parts of Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi during the coming week. This may slightly ease the currently very dry conditions in these areas, prior to the onset of seasonal rains in the Horn. 

    Seasonal Progress

    Since late January, seasonal dryness has continued over the eastern Horn, following very poor performance of the Deyr/Hageya/short rains between October and December, resulting in an abnormally long dry season that has also been marked by hotter-than-normal land surface temperatures across Somalia, Kenya, southern and eastern Ethiopia, and northeastern Tanzania. In addition,  end of the season dryness in January affected cropping conditions and reduced maize yields in Burundi, Rwanda, and bimodal areas of Tanzania and led to well below average rangeland resources (pasture and water) in these countries.

    During the past month, seasonal Msimu (November to April) rainfall in unimodal Tanzania has intensified, with rainfall between 25-100 mm above average in southern areas (Figure 1). This has helped to ease large rainfall deficits that have persisted following a delayed and below-average start of seasonal rains in late 2016. However, cumulative seasonal rainfall remains less than 50 percent of average in many areas of northern, central, and eastern Tanzania.

    According to the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), vegetation conditions remain well below average in many eastern areas of the region, including northeastern Tanzania, most of Kenya and Uganda, southern and central Somalia, southeastern South Sudan, and southern and eastern Ethiopia (Figure 2). In Rwanda and Burundi, NDVI suggests vegetation conditions are relatively better than in other areas of the region.

    The following is a country-by-country update on recent seasonal progress to date:

    • In Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya, rangeland resources in many areas continue to deteriorate as the dry season continues following very poor performance of the Deyr/Hageya/short rains in 2016. In many areas, NDVI continues to show vegetation conditions that are well below normal and field reports confirm little to no pasture availability in many pastoral areas. During the past several days, small amounts of unseasonal rainfall has occurred in localized areas of northeastern Kenya, southern Ethioopia, and Djibouti
    • In Tanzania, following the below average Vuli seasonal rains, crop losses were significant in the bimodal regions of northern Tanzania, with anecodotal reports indicating that crop losses may be more than 75 percent of the total harvest. The current Msimu seasonal (November to February) rainfall performance has been poor and is unlikely to be favorable for maize cropping conditions, especially in many eastern and central areas. Some intensification of the current seasonal rains, especially in southern areas, is likely to continue into April; however, it may be too late as some yield losses have have been incurred. Since Tanzania’s agricultural production is key for the region, reduced production prospects is likely to have a regional impact on cereal prices and Tanzania’s capacity to export.
    • In Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi, the recent below-average season reduced yield prospects in these countries for the current second season/Season A harvesting. Pastoral areas of Karamoja and the cattle corridor in Uganda have also been adversely affected by the on-going drought conditions.
    • Yemen, remains in a precarious situation with the escalating conflict and high diesel prices, which are limiting irrigated agricultural activities.
    • In eastern DRC, recent weeks of rainfall have helped to ease some of the cumulative rainfall deficts over the plains of Ruzizi and Tanganyika. However, following a delayed start of season and below-average seasonal rainfall, this additional rainfall is likely too late to significantly improve cropping prospects for season “A” agricultural production. 


    The 1-week NOAA/GFS rainfall forecast (Figure 3) through February 24, 2017 indicates an increased likelihood for continued intensification of Msimu seasonal rains in western and eastern Tanzania and surrounding countries, such as Rwanda, Burundi, and the DRC. The forecast rains are unlikely to ease the persistent the large cumulative seasonal rainfall deficits in central and northeastern Tanzania. However, the rains are expected to be generally beneficially, in terms of water replenishment and pasture regeneration in areas that have remained generally drier-than-normal over the past months, in some of the worst drought affected regions of Tanzania.

    Due to drought, pasture and water resources in pastoral and agro-pastoral areas of the Eastern Horn remain very poor, which will likely remain the case until the onset of Gu/Genna/long rainfall in March/April. However, the short-term forecast does suggest there is an increased likelihood for unseasonal rainfall in the Horn during the coming weeks, particularly in Kenya and Ethiopia, which would would help replenish some water sources and could encourage some vegetation growth.

    Meanwhile, the rest of the region is expected to also experience unseasonal moderate to heavy rains in the coming week, particularly in much of Kenya, parts of extreme southern Somalia and the Belg cropping regions of southwestern into northeastern Ethiopia, southern Eritrea, parts of Djibouti and western Yemen in the Middle-East region. This could also help provide some slight relief and punctuate the prolonged dry conditions.

    Figures Figure 1. ARC2 seasonal rainfall estimate anomalies, as percent of normal (1983-2009),  Febraury 1-16, 2017

    Figure 1

    Figure 1. ARC2 seasonal rainfall estimate anomalies, as percent of normal (1983-2009), Febraury 1-16, 2017

    Source: NOAA/NWS/CPC

    Figure 2. eMODIS/NDVI anomaly (2001-2010), January 26 – Febraury 5, 2017

    Figure 2

    Figure 2. eMODIS/NDVI anomaly (2001-2010), January 26 – Febraury 5, 2017

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Figure 3. One-Week GFS-Rainfall forecast (mm), valid until February 24, 2017

    Figure 3

    Figure 3. One-Week GFS-Rainfall forecast (mm), valid until February 24, 2017

    Source: CPC/NOAA

    FEWS NET’s Seasonal Monitor reports are produced for Central America and the Caribbean, West Africa, East Africa, Central Asia, and Somalia every 10-to-30 days during the region’s respective rainy season(s). Seasonal Monitors report updates on weather events (e.g., rainfall patterns) and associated impacts on ground conditions (e.g., cropping conditions, pasture and water availability), as well as the short-term rainfall forecast. Find more remote sensing information here.

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