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Despite reduced intensity of Gu rainfall, flood risk remains high in mid- to late May

  • Seasonal Monitor
  • Somalia
  • May 24, 2020
Despite reduced intensity of Gu rainfall, flood risk remains high in mid- to late May

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  • Situation
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    During the May 11-20 period, the intensity of Gu rainfall eased compared to late April and early May. Light, erratic precipitation was reported across most of the country according to remote sensing imagery and field reports. CHIRPS preliminary rainfall data indicated that rainfall amounts were 10 millimeters (mm) or less (Figure 1). However, localized areas in central, southern, and northwestern Somalia received moderate rainfall amounts of up to 25 mm. According to historical remote sensing data, rainfall amounts in the South and parts of the Northwest were generally 10-25 mm below the long-term average. Conversely, rainfall totals were climatologically average in most of central and northeastern Somalia, as well as in the eastern sector of the Northwest and in Gedo region in the South (Figure 2). According to FAO SWALIM river station gauge data as of May 21, river water levels in upstream areas of the Juba and Shabelle rivers are declining but new flooding episodes were reported in downstream riverine areas. The river level in Beledweyne district of Hiiraan region remained at early bankfull levels. A forecast of moderate rainfall in the upper catchments of the Juba and Shabelle rivers in Ethiopia through May 30th is likely to maintain an elevated risk of floods in riverine areas. The latest estimates from OCHA report a total of 412,000 people have been displaced due to flash and riverine floods during the Gu season.


    In the Northwest, rainfall performance was spatially varied during the May 11-20 period. Localized light to moderate rainfall was reported in Northwestern Agropastoral, West Golis Pastoral, and Hawd Pastoral livelihood zones of Borama, Gabiley, and Hargeisa districts in Awdal and Woqooyi Galbeed regions. Similar rainfall performance was also reported in Northern Inland Pastoral and East Golis Pastoral of Sool and Sanaag regions. However, little to no rainfall was reported in pastoral and agropastoral livelihood zones in Togdheer region. Despite lighter rainfall or even dry conditions during this period, water and pasture availability remains favorable and some regeneration of vegetation in eastern Sool region was observed by remote sensing imagery.

    In the Northeast, suppressed rainfall was observed in most livelihood zones during the May 11-20 period. In Bari, most areas were dry except for localized, light showers reported in East Golis Pastoral and Northern Inland Pastoral livelihood zones of Alula, Qandala, Bossaso, Iskhuban, Qardho, and Bandarbeyla districts. In contrast, Coastal Deeh Pastoral and Fishing livelihood zone received no rainfall at all. In Nugaal and northern Mudug regions, field information indicated conditions were dry across all livelihood zones except for localized showers in parts of Northern Inland Pastoral zone of Qardho and Dangarayo districts. Due to relatively low cumulative amounts of rainfall since the onset of the Gu season, water and pasture availability and access ranges from below normal to normal levels.

    In central regions, rains of moderate to heavy intensity fell in large parts of Galgaduud and southern Mudug regions in the May 11-20 period. While these rains benefited Hawd, Addun, and central Cowpea Agropastoral livelihood zones, Coastal Deeh and Fishing livelihood zone received little to no rainfall. No flash floods were reported. The rains continue to be beneficial for pasture, browse, and water availability and access.   

    In the South, both ground and remote-sensing information show that rainfall largely subsided during the May 11-20 compared to the previous reporting periods. Most livelihood zones of Hiiraan, Bay, Bakool, Gedo, Shabelle, and Juba regions reported little to no rainfall. Only localized, agropastoral and pastoral areas of Lower and Middle Shabelle and Lower and Middle Juba regions received light to moderate rain. Rain gauge stations in Afgoye and Janale (Lower Shabelle), Baidoa and Qansahdhere (Bay), Beledweyne and Buloburte (Hiiraan), and Xudur and Elbarde (Bakool) recorded zero amounts of rainfall. Rain gauge stations in Sakow (Middle Juba) recorded 20 mm of rainfall. Despite receding river levels observed in this reporting period, some new flood events occurred in downstream riverine areas and many households remain displaced or are having difficulty engaging in livelihood activities along the Juba and Shabelle rivers.

    The satellite-derived eMODIS Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) for the May 11-20 period shows positive anomalies across most of Somalia (Figure 3). However, vegetation vigor deficits are visible in localized areas in the South, including in parts of Hiiraan, Shabelle, and Juba regions affected by recent floods. The NOAA Climate Prediction Center’s seven-day weather forecast through May 30th predicts moderate to heavy rainfall in much of northern Somalia and in the Shabelle and Juba regions in the South (Figure 4). However, most of Gedo, Bay, Bakool, and Hiiraan, along with most central regions and large parts of Awdal and Woqooyi Galbeed, are likely to receive little to no rainfall. The forecast also predicts moderate to heavy rainfall in the upper Juba and Shabelle catchments in the Ethiopian highlands, which will likely increase river water levels in riverine areas along the Juba and Shabelle rivers.

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    Figures Map of Somalia showing rainfall accumulation in millimeters from May 11 to 20, 2020

    Figure 1

    Figure 1

    Source: UC Santa Barbara Climate Hazards Center

    Map of Somalia showing the rainfall anomaly in millimeters compared to the long-term average during the period of May 11 to 2

    Figure 2

    Figure 2

    Source: UC Santa Barbara Climate Hazards Center

    Map of Somalia showing vegetation anomalies from May 11 to 20, 2020

    Figure 3

    Figure 3

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Map of Somalia showing the rainfall forecast in millimeters from May 24 to 30, 2020

    Figure 4

    Figure 4

    Source: NOAA/CPC

    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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