IRI Home
IRI Climate Digest   April 2005

Climate Impacts - March

Contributions to this page were made by IRI researchers
M. Bell, Dr. A. Giannini, E. Grover-Kopec,
Dr. B. Lyon, C. Ropelewski, Dr. A. Seth

Sort by sector
Sort by Region


Africa - Angola  Above-normal precipitation brought flooding to northern Angola during the recent rainy season, which normally occurs during November-March (Nov 2004-Jan 2005 WASP Index Map). At least 10,000 people were left homeless by flooding in Kwanza Norte province. Heavy rains during mid-December and early January destroyed over 300 homes in the province, but most of the flood-related damage came after heavy downpours in early March. Farmland in the area was also destroyed by the flooding. According to OCHA, the provincial government has been dealing with the situation well, but the UN agency has helped by providing mosquito nets, and medical and rebuilding supplies (Xinhua, IRIN).

Asia - Afghanistan  The snowpack from one of Afghanistan's worst winters in a decade (Feb 2005 CID Report) began melting during March and brought flooding to the northern, central and western provinces, killing at least 200 people. Much of the flooding was anticipated by governmental and UN agency officials with the commencement of warnings and mitigation activities in early March (IRIN). The worst hit areas were in the provinces of Uruzgan, Farah, and Herat, where there were 115 confirmed deaths and as many more still missing as of 20 March. The largest losses occurred along the Helmand River and near the Sistan Wetlands. Heavy rains in central and western Afghanistan in mid-March exacerbated the situation in these areas. According to the governor of Farah, the flooding destroyed 7800 homes and caused large livestock losses in his province. Another 2500 homes collapsed in Herat; most houses in Afghanistan are built from mud and are highly vulnerable to flooding. An outbreak of dysentery in the Pashtun Zarghoon area of Herat was also reported. The WFP sent 25 metric tons of food to Farah province to fulfill the immediate needs of approximately 5000 people. Another 230 metric tons of food were delivered to the hard hit district of Deh Rawud in Uruzgan by the WFP and Coalitition forces to feed about 25,000 people for one month (AP, IRIN). At least 20 people were killed and thousands displaced when the Band-e Sultan dam, in Ghazni province, burst in late March (IRIN). Flooding along the Aamo River and associated losses were also reported during March in the northern provinces of Sar-e Pol, Balkh, Jowzjan and Baghlan. Humanitarian workers indicated in early April that the worst of the flooding should be over (IRIN, DFO).


Africa - Zambia,Zimbabwe  Poor rainfall in portions of Zambia and Zimbabwe during the 2004-05 rainy season has greatly impacted agriculture, particularly maize crops, in the region. In southern Zambia, little to no precipitation fell during the first half of February, which, according to FEWSNet, coincided with the "critical crop development stage, when the maize was in the tasseling and early grain filling stages" (Feb 2005 Precipitation Percentile Map). Dry spells during mid-December and early January in the Southern and Western provinces made this region even more vulnerable to damage from the dry conditions during February. Crop failure rates of 40-90 percent have been reported in the southwestern provinces. The resulting food shortages could be worse than the severe shortages that occurred after the failure of the 2000-01 crops, according to the Zambia Red Cross Society (IRIN, FEWSNet, FEWSNet).

The WFP is already providing emergency food assistance to approximately 900,000 vulnerable people in Zambia and is calling for additional funding due to the possibility of a "drastic shortfall" of maize. According to the Zambian Agriculture and Cooperative Minister, the country could be facing a maize shortfall of up to 300,000 metric tons. The government issued drought alert warnings and suspended maize exports in early March in anticipation of the impending maize shortfall. It has also been urging farmers in the drought-prone southern and central regions to plant cassava, which is more drought-resistant than maize (IRIN). Households across the southern provinces, which have largely depleted their food stocks from last year, have started to employ coping mechanisms, such as selling livestock, gathering wild fruits, and skipping meals, according to the WFP Vulnerability Assessment Committee (IRIN).

In Zimbabwe, dry spells occurred during February and March in the southern provinces of Matabeleland, Masvingo and Manicaland (Feb 2005 Precipitation Percentile Map, FEWSNet). The impact of the dry conditions is expected to be worse than last year, according to the government. More precise estimates of the damage to crops and the resulting food insecurity will not be available until the end of the April when the harvest is completed. Favorable harvests, however, have been reported by farmers in portions of Mashonaland Central province, which received normal rainfall during the 2004-05 season (IRIN, IRIN).

Africa - Uganda  Nearly 600,000 people in the Karamoja region of Uganda will receive food aid over the next six months from an operation launched by the WFP. The region in northeastern Uganda experienced a poor harvest in 2004 due to below-normal rainfall during the April-October rainy season (Jan 2005 CID Report). The WFP has already started distributing food to the districts of Kotido and Moroto, which were severely impacted by the drought. According to FEWSNet, the prices of maize, sorghum, and pulses have continued to rise. This has greatly affected pastoralists' access to income for food by decreasing the livestock-cereal terms of trade. The regular occurrence of drought in the Karamoja region during the past 25 years has received some of the blame for the region having the highest malnutrition and mortality rates in the country (IRIN, FEWSNet, IRIN).

The most recent IRI seasonal forecast indicates a slightly-enhanced likelihood of below-normal precipitation in Uganda during the upcoming May-July 2005 season.

Africa - Eritrea  A recent report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has stated that the humanitarian situation in Eritrea continues to decline as the result of both the multi-year drought (country-average CMAP precipitation anomaly time series) and the after-effects of the war with Ethiopia that ended in 2000 (IRIN). Some of Eritrea's most fertile land is near the border with Ethiopia in the southwest portion of the country, an area which was devastated by the war and where land mines are still a threat (IRIN), keeping people from returning. Pastures in the zobas (zones) of Anseba, Gash Barka, and Debub (reference map) are reportedly at their driest since 1998. In four of the six zobas, 15 percent of children under five are suffering from acute malnutrition, and 30 to 60 percent of women are suffering from malnourishment. It is estimated that about two-thirds of Eritrea's population of 3.6 million people will need food assistance in 2005.

Africa - Burkina Faso,Mali,Mauritania,Niger  Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has reported that child malnutrition is quickly growing in the Maradi and Tahoua districts of southern Niger as a result of crop damage from localized drought (Jul-Sep 2004 3-Month WASP Index) and the extensive locust outbreak during the June-September 2004 rainy season (IRIN). About 20 percent of children in the two districts are at risk of becoming severely malnourished after about 90 percent of agricultural production there was destroyed. The government of Niger estimates that as many as 3.5 million people in the country could face food shortages this year. The next harvest is not expected until September. Across the Sahel, about 9.3 million people have been "negatively affected" by last year's locust outbreak and localized dry conditions, including 3 million people in Burkina Faso (Dec 2004 CID), 1.7 million people in Mali, and a large proportion of the population of Mauritania, where the locust outbreak was most severe (IFRC). Food shortages have prompted people in the region to begin migrating in search of food and work, or to sell land, livestock, or other possessions. Additionally, in Niger, a 19 percent value-added tax imposed this year on basic foodstuffs has prompted several protests in the capital, Niamey, and elsewhere in the country (IRIN).

Africa - Sudan  According to the WFP, rainfall was inadequate for agricultural needs across Sudan during 2004, with the exception of the southwestern portion of the country (Nov 2004-Mar 2005 WASP Index Map). The climatological rainy season in the region occurs from March to October in the extreme south and June to September in the central portion of the country. Poor crop yields and crop failures have been reported in portions of Darfur, the eastern sorghum-producing region of Gedaref and the southern flood plains. Below-normal rainfall during July, August, and September 2004 in the states of Gedaref, Sinnar, Blue Nile, Kassala and parts of White Nile and Gezira in the east, and the Greater Darfur region in the west conincided with the stage at which crops are most sensitive to the availability of moisture (Jul-Sep 2004 WASP Index Map). The resulting shortages of sorghum have contributed to its price nearly doubling between January 2004 and January 2005. The recent civil unrest in Sudan has made the population in many of these areas highly vulnerable to climate shocks and their impact on the food supply, such that just small increases in food prices can have devastating impacts. The cost of anticipated WFP emergency operations in Darfur (USD438 million) and southern and eastern Sudan (USD310 million) were just 59 percent and 14 percent funded, respectively, as of mid-March, leading the organization to urge donors to continue to pledge funds (IRIN, FEWSNet, WFP).

Below-normal flood levels in the flood plains last year, due in part to below-normal rainfall in June and July, also had implications for food security. Between November and May, seasonal flooding helps to provide access to livestock products, fish and wild foods that typically account for at least 50 percent of annual household food baskets in nearly all of southern Sudan (FEWSNet).

The most recent IRI seasonal forecast indicates a slightly-enhanced probability of below-normal precipitation across southern Sudan during the upcoming May-July 2005 season.

Asia - China  With the exception of the province of Hainan and sections of southern Guangxi province (reference map), areas of southeastern China that have been most affected by the drought during the May-October 2004 rainy season (March 2005 CID) received near-normal to above-normal precipitation in February and March 2005. Although the drought has been characterized as the worst to affect the region in 50 years (USDA), it has apparently had little effect on agricultural production, according to the USDA. One crop that has been affected, however, is sugar cane. In the important sugar-producing province of Guangxi, sugar production for 2004/05 is estimated to be about 400,000 to 500,000 tons below last year's total. Although most provinces in the southeast still have significant moisture deficits (March 2005 Soil Moisture Anomaly Map), the recent rains in February and March will have provided sufficient moisture for the planting of rice in March and April.

The most recent IRI seasonal forecast indicates a slightly-enhanced probability of below-normal precipitation in portions of southern China during the upcoming May-July 2005 season.

Asia - Asia: Southeast  Drought during the 2004 April-October rainy season in Southeast Asia (May-Oct 2004 WASP Index Map), particularly during the second half of the season, has resulted in water shortages and heavy losses in crop production, especially in Thailand (Reference Map). Crop losses have also been reported in China, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos (USDA). Since October, the dry season has been drier than normal as well (Oct 2004-Mar 2005 WASP Index Map). According to the USDA, 70 of the 76 provinces in Thailand have been affected by drought, about 9 million farmers and 1 million hectares of rice paddy have been affected, and the 2004/05 rice crop is estimated at 17.0 million tons, down 1.0 million tons from last year. The sugar crop throughout the region has been hit especially hard -- in Thailand sugar production is expected to fall by 30 percent from last year. In Cambodia, about 30 percent of agricultural land has been affected by drought, including about 500,000 hectares of rice paddy (about 25 percent of the total paddy area), and about 500,000 people are at risk of food shortages. In provinces in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, the drought is being called the worst in 28 years (AP/Taipei Times) and has caused an estimated 30 percent decline in coffee production from last year. Interestingly, in spite of the drought, a record rice crop is expected in Vietnam (USDA). Although water levels are quite low in the Red River and the Mekong Delta, allowing salt water intrusion to contaminate drinking and irrigation water, good rice yields are being recorded for the winter/spring 2004/05 crop. Because of the unusually dry conditions during the dry season and the low water levels in wells, reservoirs, and rivers, prospects are poor or uncertain for second season and the 2005 main season crops in many countries (NASA).

The latest IRI seasonal forecast indicates a slightly-enhanced likelihood of below-normal precipitation in central Thailand during the May-July 2005 season.

North America - United States  Below-average summer temperatures, clear skies, and adequate moisture during the summer growing season of 2004 in the U.S. Midwest all allowed for record yields of corn, soybeans, sorghum, and alfalfa all in the same year, an unprecedented situation, according to a report from the Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS). A series of cold fronts and associated high pressure systems during the course of the summer kept temperatures lower than normal and skies clear, aiding photosynthesis. Growing conditions in the Midwest during the summer of 2004 were the best in the last 117 years (NASA).

South America - Brazil  According to the USDA, drought in the state of Rio Grande do Sul in southern Brazil (CAMS-OPI monthly precipitation anomaly time series), the country's largest producer of soybeans, is projected to result in declines in soybean and corn production as large as 28 percent and 22 percent, respectively, from last year (USDA). During the summer growing season, precipitation since September 2004 has been well below normal, particularly since December, and low yields have been reported in areas where the harvest has already begun. Since January 2005, estimates of soybean production have dropped 49 percent, and estimates of corn production have fallen 52 percent. According to media reports, 440 cities and towns in the state have declared a state of emergency, and water has reportedly been rationed for 2 million people (AP). For Brazil as a whole, an estimated 13 million tons of grain will be lost in this year's drought, which would make it the worst crop loss in the country's history, according to the government's National Supply Company (AP). Losses to farmers may total as much as US$2.2 billion. Although the drought has not been as severe in the state of Parana, which is also a major soybean producer, about 13.3 percent of the harvest there has been lost as well (Tierramérica).

The most recent IRI seasonal forecast indicates a slightly- to moderately-enhanced probability of below-normal precipitation for most of eastern South America, including southern Brazil, during the upcoming May-July 2005 season.

Contents | Special | Impacts | Climate | Forecast