IRI Climate Digest
Climate Impacts - March
Contributions to this page were made by IRI researchers
Dr. A. Giannini,
Dr. B. Lyon,
Asia - Kyrgyzstan
According to information collected by (OCHA), more than 1,100 settlements in the regions of Osh and Jalalabat in Kyrgyzstan (ReliefWeb Map) were affected by heavy snow and avalanches during the months of January and February 2006 (January 2006 1-Month WASP Index Map). According to the reports, there were four casualties, seventeen public buildings and farms were destroyed, and more than 1,815 houses and 63 schools and hospitals were damaged.
Europe - Europe: Central,Europe: East
Recent heavy precipitation (March 2006 WASP Index Map) and snowmelt (Reuters) have contributed to flooding that started in late March and has continued into the first half of April in several countries in Central and Eastern Europe (IFRC Map). The affected countries include Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, Hungary, Romania, and Serbia and Montenegro. According to an IFRC report on the 7th of April, some areas in the Czech Republic had been under water for up to fourteen days, hundreds of homes had been damaged, and an emergency situation had been declared in seven of the country's fourteen regions (IFRC). Flood levels along the Danube in Hungary have exceeded those observed during the very destructive flooding in Central Europe in 2002 (Sep 2002 CID), and a state of emergency was declared in Budapest. According to the IFRC, twelve of the twenty counties in Hungary had been affected by floods, and over 10,000 volunteers, along with civil service and military personnel (AFP), had been at work to shore up flood defenses at a daily cost of about EUR 570,000-760,000. Along the Danube in Romania the river reached its highest level in over 100 years, and the government was planning to submerge about 90,000 hectares of farmland to help ease flooding elsewhere (Reuters). As late as 15 April, water levels were still rising along the Danube in Romania and Serbia, where hundreds of homes had been damaged or destroyed (AFP). In terms of insured losses, the reinsurer, Hannover Re, was expecting losses from flooding in Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic to reach into the "very low double-digit-million euros", and Allianz AG Holdings was expecting losses from flooding in Germany to reach approximately EUR 15 million (MarketWatch). (ReliefWeb)
North America - United States
Six weeks of heavy rainfall in the American state of Hawaii caused destructive flooding during late-February and March. (March Precipitation Percentile Map) At least 137 households were affected and an estimated USD 5 million in residential property damage was suffered after nearly 2 feet (0.6 m) of rain fell on the windward portions of Oahu Island in just 24 hours. (DNN, Star Bulletin) On the island of Kauai, a dam breach at the Ka Loko Reservoir released nearly 500 million gallons (1.9 billion L) of water. Seven people were killed and sections of the main highway were destroyed. (Seattle Times/AP, CNN, AP) Taro farmers on the island are expecting a stunted crop and smaller harvest due to the flooding. (KNBC)
Damages from the entire event are estimated to be USD 50 million, and Governor Linda Lingle is seeking a presidential disaster declaration that will help Hawaii cover these costs. (Star Bulletin) According to the meteorologists at the National Weather Service office in Honolulu, the abundant rainfall was caused by a series of "Kona" low-pressure systems, which bring warm, moist air over the islands. (Honolulu Advertiser, National Weather Service)
North America - United States: Great Plains
An abnormally-active wildfire season has continued to affect the southern Great Plains of the United States. (Jan 2006 CID) Climate conditions have set the stage for this busy fire season. The dry winter of 2005-06 (Sep 2005-Feb 2006 WASP Map) followed a few years of good rainfall in the region, resulting in plenty of dry fuel to feed fires. The high winds and higher-than-average temperatures (Jan-Mar 2006 Temperature Anomaly Map) that characterized the past few months have contributed to the situation as well. As of 22 March, approximately 1.5 million acres had been burned in more than 17,000 wildfires since the beginning of the year, with Texas and Oklahoma being hardest hit. This far exceeds the wildfire activity of recent years; there were slightly more than 11,000 fires, on average, during the past five years, and the previous high of burned acreage during the same period was about 550,000 acres in 2000. According to the Texas Forest Service, the fires in Texas have been blamed for the deaths of 11 people. (CNN, AFP)
The latest IRI seasonal forecast indicates a slightly-enhanced probability of below-normal rainfall during May-July 2006 in portions of the southern and western Great Plains, including most of the states of Texas and Oklahoma.
South America - Colombia
During March (ReliefWeb Map, OCHA) and the first half of April, heavy rainfall triggered new flooding and landslides in Colombia, particularly along the Pacific coast and in central sections of the country. As of 13 April, according to the Colombian Red Cross and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, 47 people had been killed and 8,000 families had been affected by flooding and landslides since the rains started in January (Jan-Mar 2006 WASP Index Map). 232 houses had been destroyed and about 3,800 had been damaged as well. The departments most affected include Chocó, Valle del Cauca, Cauca, Nariño, Antioquia, Caldas, Risaralda, Quindío, Tolima, Arauca, Santander, Norte de Santander, Cundinamarca, Boyacá, and Casanare y Meta (Reference Map). In response, the national Red Cross has issued an appeal for USD 758,000 in aid (IFRC).
At about the time this Red Cross summary was released, there were new reports of heavy rains causing additional flooding and mudslides along the Pacific coast of southwestern Colombia. Flooding along the Dagua River was blamed for triggering several mudslides between Cali and Buenaventura in Valle del Cauca province, including one which left at least 29 people dead and 8 people missing in the town of Benediciones (Reuters, AFP). In many of the affected departments, the current rainy season typically reaches its peak in April and May, and rains peak again around October in the second season. The departments of Antioquia and Santander were also heavily affected by damaging floods during September-November 2005 (Dec 2005 CID).
The latest IRI seasonal precipitation forecast indicates a slightly enhanced probability of above-normal precipitation for most of Colombia during the May-July 2006 season.
Africa - Burundi
Drought conditions, which began in portions of northern and eastern Burundi in 2001, have combined with an increasing population, due to refugees returning from Tanzania, to cause severe food shortages. (Oct 2005-Mar 2006 WASP Map) According to a joint assessment conducted in January by the government and UN agencies, 1.5 million people were at risk due to the prolonged drought. An official from the WFP has since indicated that this number has risen in the past few months. The northern province of Kirundo was once considered the breadbasket of the country, but recently has been greatly affected by drought and an agricultural disease that wiped out its cassava crops. It is now struggling to feed its people, with more than half of its population of 580,000 in urgent need of food aid. Estimates indicate that 10,000 Burundian children have dropped out of school and at least 4000 people have sought refuge outside of the country. As of late January, 120 deaths had been blamed on the food shortages. Many of these deaths occurred in Muyinga province, where 80 percent of the population is experiencing food shortages. Aid is coming to the Burundian people via government relief programs, the WFP (who plans to assist approximately 934,000 people during 2006), and NGOs, including CRS and ACT. (IRIN, IRIN, IRIN)
No Water Resources/Energy Impacts Reported This Month
Africa - Burkina Faso
A meningitis outbreak in Burkina Faso has killed 784 people, according to the West African country's Health Ministry. This death toll is nearly twice that of last year, but health officials have indicated that it could have been much worse. There have been nearly 8200 cases in Burkina Faso this year, compared to the 1951 cases during the same 12-week period in 2005. Effective treatment of the disease has received much of the credit for the significant decrease in the death rate. A mass vaccination campaign, launched by the WHO, European Commission Humanitarian Aid Department and Medicines Sans Frontieres, is providing 1.8 million vaccines in the region. (Reuters, WHO) Meningitis is endemic in Burkina Faso, but outbreaks typically occur during the dry season (Climatological Precipitation Animation). Outbreaks are also occurring in other countries in the meninigitis belt, including Côte d'Ivoire, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Sudan and Uganda. (IRIN)
Africa - Africa: East,Africa: Greater Horn
In early April the UN launched a new appeal for drought-related aid in East Africa, urgently requesting USD 425.7 million to help feed approximately 8 million people in the region (IRIN). At the release of the new appeal, the U.N. Under Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs, Jan Egeland, stated that thousands of people may already be dying due to illnesses and malnutrition related to the ongoing drought (Reuters). The majority of the funds in the appeal are intended for Somalia, particularly southern Somalia, where approximately 2.1 million people "either face a humanitarian emergency or acute food and livelihood crises" and "pre-famine conditions", according to the UN Food Security Assessment Unit for Somalia (FSAU; FEWS Net, FSAU Malnutrition Map). Pastoralists and agropastoralists in the border region of northern Kenya, southern Somalia, and southern Ethiopia have lost an enormous fraction of the livestock (in some areas as high as 75 to 95 percent) that sustain their livelihood, due to extreme water and pasture shortages caused by the drought (IRIN, AFP). With the lack of a functioning state structure in southern Somalia, violence has become an increasing problem as warlords compete for scarce water resources, such as wells (Washington Post). "Pre-famine conditions" also threaten pastoralists in southern and southeastern Ethiopia, where about 2 million people are likely to need emergency assistance through at least July (FEWS Net, DPPC Map). In Kenya, about 3.5 million people have been affected by the drought, and estimates of the number affected throughout East Africa range from 11 million to 15 million (BBC, BBC). The region is currently in the midst of its climatological "long rains" (March-May climatological fraction of annual precipitation), which may be the only opportunity for the improvement of the drought until the "short rains" of October-December 2006.
Asia - Timor-Leste
A series of storms and related flooding during the second half of January and February caused damage in Timor-Leste. The district of Oecusse was among those hardest hit by the flooding. As of late February, more than 3100 farmers had reported corn and rice crop losses, and extensive livestock losses were also reported. At least 1200 homes were destroyed or suffered damage, and potable water has became an issue of concern after 100 wells were contaminated by flood waters. The remoteness of communities in Oecusse has been making relief operations by the Cruz Vermelha de Timor-Leste very difficult. Damage to homes and crops was also reported in the districts of Ainaro, Baucau, Bobonaro, Maliana, and Viqueque.
The IFRC issued an appeal on 24 February for nearly CHF 570,000 (USD 431,000) to assist 8400 people for six months. As of 14 March, just more than half of the appeal had been covered. (IFRC, IFRC)