IRI Climate Digest
Climate Impacts - May
Contributions to this page were made by IRI researchers
Dr. M. Barlow,
Dr. M. Hopp,
Dr. T Kestin,
Dr. B. Lyon,
Dr. A. Seth,
Dr. L. Zubair
During the last week of April and the first two weeks of May, heavy rains
caused flooding and landslides in parts of East Africa. On 13 May, AFP
reported 68 deaths in Kenya due to landslides and flooding and 59 storm-related deaths in Rwanda. According to the report, nearly 175,000
people had been forced to leave their homes because of the heavy rainfall.
A 9 May BBC story stated that floods and mudslides had forced people from their homes in Rwanda, Kenya, Burundi, Tanzania, and Uganda.
Flooding in early May is estimated to have affected over 8,000 families in Costa Rica, including an evacuation of 6,000 people and damage to 600 houses and two schools. (IFRC, OCHA)
Heavy rains pounded central Chile during the last few days of May and early June. In the cities of La Sarena, Valparaiso and the metropolitan area of Santiago, 300% more rain than is normal fell during the period, the heaviest rains in a century, and caused extensive flooding which affected 199,000 people in both urban and rural zones. The government estimates that the flooding has resulted in damage in excess of USD 1,000,000, primarily to homes and infrastructure. This amount does not take into account losses to agricultural production, workers lost time, tourism, etc. The population in need is almost exclusively comprised on rural self-sufficient farm families with very little disposable income. During favourable years they are able to sell excess production to supplement their incomes. As a consequence of the flooding, the land has lost much of its productive quality and already marginalised families will find it difficult to meet their basic food needs. (OCHA, OCHA, IFRC)
Such unusually heavy rains might be expected during an El Niño, however the recent rains are heavier than those experienced during the very strong 1997/98 event. Current conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean are edging tentatively towards an El Niño.
A cholera outbreak in Cape Coast, Ghana has been reported. This area is currently experiencing a severe water shortage. Source: ProMED
A heat-wave, with temperatures reaching 45 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit), has resulted in at least 622 deaths in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. The deaths occurred mostly among the elderly, ill and outdoor workers. Sources: Disaster Relief, CNN
In Bangladesh, over 45 deaths in the capital alone were associated with a heat wave affecting Pakistan, southern India, and Bangladesh early in the month(BBC).
Heavy rains have prompted the Panamanian Health Minister to issue a malaria alert in the western province of Bocas del Toro. Already 300 cases of malaria have been reported. Source: ProMED
According to a report from the Pan American Health Organization, recent rains and flooding in Central America are believed to have contributed to the rise in reported dengue cases this year. So far 6526 cases have been registered, compared to 7080 cases for all of last year (2001). The report also mentions that the climatic phenomenon, El Nino, might enhance breeding conditions for the dengue mosquito due to an anticipated increase in rainfall.
West Nile Virus (WNV)-infected mosquitoes have already been found in the southern Negev region this year; in past years infected mosquitoes weren't usually found until August. Heavy rains last winter and recent late rains have raised concerns about increased numbers of WNV cases this year. The Negev has recorded 600 millimeters of rain this year, compared to the normal annual rainfall of 350 mm. Source: ProMED
Canada and U.S.A.
The recent mild winter may be partially accountable for the unusually early appearance of West Nile Virus-infected birds in southern Ontario and several U.S. states. Last year (2001) was the first time the virus was found in birds in Canada, though 2 ½ months later than this year. Heavy spring rains in the U.S. Midwest are providing breeding grounds for the mosquitoes that carry West Nile Virus, which has been responsible for the deaths of 18 people and 187 horses in the United States since it first appeared in 1999. Sources: ProMED, ProMED, CNN, Reuters Health
Bolivia Following heavy rains and flooding, the Bolivian government has declared a national health emergency with the eruption of several epidemics in affected towns. A 12 percent increase in acute respiratory infections and a 10 percent increase in gastrointestinal infections, from the previous year, have resulted from flood contaminated drinking water. Over 1000 cases of malaria have also been reported and outbreaks of the mosquito-borne dengue fever are a potential threat to flood victims. (ProMED)
Due to continued drought in the north, Taiwan began residential water rationing for the first time in 22 years. Industrial production is dependent on water and the possibility that water rationing might be extended to industrial uses has raised some fears that the ongoing economic recovery could be threatened (BBC). In the central and southern regions, heavy rains late in the month eased the drought, lifting reservoir and groundwater levels. As a result, water-rationing was discontinued in those regions. (Taipei Times).
Drought across the western US and Mexico has resulted in reduced river flows. By treaty, Mexico must allow at least 350,000 acre-feet of water in the Rio Grande each year. As a result of the drought, this limit has not been met, with farmers in Texas claiming that they are not recieving sufficent water for their crops and farmers in Northern Mexico claiming that meeting the treaty limits would damage their crops. (BBC, Reuters)
The drought-exacerbated food emergency in Southern Africa continues. Persistent drought conditions during the last half of the rainy season (January to March, 2002) in parts of Southern Africa devastated much of the region's maize crop, an extremely important food staple. According to a SADC Food Security Network Ministerial Brief issued on 17 May, within the region, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Zambia face the highest risk of a "humanitarian catastrophe" due to poor food production this year, and low stocks from last year. According to FEWS-NET, crop production in central and southern sections of Mozambique was hit hard this year, and people in these areas are expected to experience food shortages sometime between September and December of 2002. A 29 May FAO/WFP joint press release (IRIN) stated that at least 10 million people in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Lesotho, and Swaziland are threatened by "potential famine" and will begin to experience food shortages as early as June. The report estimated that about 4 million metric tonnes of food will need to be imported into Southern Africa to meet the minimum food needs of the population in the region.
Incipient drought in Cuba has raised concerns over crops and food security. The Cuban National Weather Centre has already reported drought conditions for the eastern provinces and a livestock state of emergency has been declared for this provinces as well. (WFP)
Flooding over the first four months of the year has resulted in severe agriculture damage in Paraguay, destroying 80 percent of the subsistence crops and 60 percent of the maize crops. (WFP)