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IRI Climate Digest   August 2003

Climate Impacts - July

Contributions to this page were made by IRI researchers
M. Bell, E. Grover, Dr. M. Hopp, Dr. T. Kestin,
Dr. B. Lyon, Dr. A. Seth,

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Africa - Eritrea,Sudan  Seasonal rains brought flooding to western Eritrea and northeast Sudan during July. The flooding was the worst that the countries had seen in 40 and 70 years, respectively. July and August comprise the major portion of the rainy season in these areas, with the peak of seasonal flooding typically arriving in mid-August, though the rains during July were particularly heavy in the highlands of western Eritrea and Ethiopia. The same areas have also been suffering from drought over the past year, which may have played a role in how much of the seasonal rains flowed down the mountains to eastern Sudan. Kassala was the hardest hit area in Sudan where approximately 80 percent of it was flooded when the Gash River burst its banks, leaving the same portion of its 450,000 inhabitants homeless. Kassala's only hospital and its main water plant were destroyed in the flooding as well. There has also been a five-fold increase in acute diarrhea and a significant increase in malaria cases with 19 percent of the population affected before the floods compared to 41 percent affected afterward. The Sudanese government has declared Kassala a national emergency and disaster area. There were also heavy crop losses in the town of Teseney, the worst affected area in Eritrea. At least 15 people have been killed in the flooding. The IFRC, local NGO's and local government authorities have issued aid appeals and are tending to those affected by the crisis. Officials have warned of continued flooding in August as the seasonal rains continue. (IFRC, IRIN, DFO, PANA, AFP, IFRC, UN Resident Cordinator, Islamic Relief, FEWSNet)

As the rains move southward into east Africa during the September-November and October-December 2003 seasons, there is an enhanced likelihood of dry conditions in Northern Kenya, Southern Ethiopia, and Somalia, according to the latest IRI Seasonal Forecast.

Asia - Afghanistan  Seasonal rains in the southern and northeast provinces of Afghanistan contributed to flooding and dam ruptures, killing at least 124 people and hundreds of livestock. Light rainfall is not uncommon in the southern and eastern provinces as the South Asian monsoon typically extends into these areas during July and August. However, while the rains were not abnormal, they fell in many areas that also received heavy rain in May and June, particularly in the Panjshir Valley. The rain was welcomed by some as it brought an end to severe drought in other areas of the country. (IRIN, AFP, VOA, IFRC)

Asia - China  An apparent northward shift in eastern China's seasonal rains from their climatological summer position played a role in bringing heightened flooding and landslides to the Yellow and Xiliao River Basins and a dry spell to southeastern China.

The dry spell in southeastern China continued during July and was accompanied by record-breaking warmth, hitting the provinces of Zhejiang (temperature departures, precipitation departures), Jianxi and Hunan the hardest. Over 30 people have died due to the heat and related forest fires. Over 1,000,000 hectares of arable land have been destroyed, most of which is in Hunan province where 2000 streams and rivers have dried up. It has been estimated that 8.6 million people are experiencing drinking water shortages in the affected areas.

Flooding and landslides seen earlier this summer continued across central and eastern China as rains were heavier than usual in the same areas hit by floods last month. According to the Chinese government, there have been 150 million people affected, 814 reported deaths, and 146,000 people injured across 26 provinces and autonomous regions as of August 4. There has also been nearly 7 million hectares of farmed land damaged with another 2.1 million hectares completely destroyed. The destruction of 892,000 housing units has left 3.5 million people homeless and direct economic losses are estimated to 7.9 billion USD. (AFP, AFP, AFP, ReliefWeb, ReliefWeb, OCHA, AFP)

The lastest IRI Seasonal Forecast for the September-November season indicates a slightly enhanced probability of below-normal precipitation in the areas of northeastern China currently experiencing flooding.

Asia - Asia: South  Monsoon rainfall is near- to above- normal throughout most of India so far this season. However, the rainfall was unusually heavy in some regions of South Asia in July, including parts of western and northern India (including Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh), and southern Pakistan, where July rainfall amounts were in the top 10 percent of the climatological distribution. Many of the affected areas in western India and southern Pakistan have been suffering from long-term drought.

As many as 800 flood-related deaths had been reported in south Asia as of the end of July (VOA). Near the middle of month, Reuters reported that approximately 300 people had been killed and 800,000 left homeless in India (mostly in the state of Assam) and Bangladesh, where flooding began in June. About 1.7 million hectares of cropland had been flooded in Bangladesh, raising concerns about rice production. Deaths from diarrhea caused by contaminated drinking water were being reported in Assam where another 50,000 people are suffering from other waterborne diseases (IFRC).

Monsoon rains in late July were causing floods and landslides in Nepal, areas of northern India, and southern Pakistan, especially the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan. One AFP report in early August indicated that about 147 deaths in Nepal had been caused by landslides, flooding, and lightning since mid-June. About 1500 houses had been destroyed, and 3281 families affected. By the early days of August in southern Pakistan there had been 222 deaths since the rains began in mid-July. According to statistics from the Government of Sindh Relief Deptartment, 3,339 villages and 857,716 people had been affected, 47,076 houses (mostly mud houses) had been destroyed, and 93,984 houses had been damaged. There had been 162 deaths, 316 injuries, 9,336 cattle deaths, and 343,188 acres of crops affected. In Balochistan there were 42 deaths, 200 injuries, 255,300 people affected, 22,640 houses damaged, 14,440 head of livestock killed, and 91,000 acres of crops destroyed (OCHA). Large numbers of cases of flood-related illnesses such as eye and skin infections, diarrhea, and malaria were being reported (IRIN), as were large losses of cotton, onion, rice, sugarcane and other crops.

The latest IRI Seasonal Forecast for the September-November season, which includes the end of the summer monsoon, indicates a slightly enhanced probability of above-normal precipitation in parts of northwestern India.

Caribbean - Haiti  Recent climate variability has played a role in the complicated humanitarian situation in Haiti. Long-term drought in the northwest and floods in the northeast last season have combined with widespread poverty, social and political tension, and economic instability to cause food insecurity and related health problems nationwide. Agriculture is the main source of income for much of the population and those dependent on it have been hit the hardest by the current food insecurity situation. There are twice as many malnourished children in rural areas as there are in urban areas and three-fourths of rural families are food insecure compared to one-third of urban families. The UN has issued a flash appeal to address the need of the country and its people. (FAO, World Vision)


Europe - Europe: East,Europe: South,Europe: West  The French health ministry, which had been receiving criticism for how it was reacting to the heat wave (July station temperature percentile map), announced on 14 August that high temperatures may have contributed to the deaths of as many as 3000 people in France since 25 July, based upon extrapolation from the number of deaths in Paris (Reuters, CNN). A later estimate increased the number to 5000, and medical personnel were being recalled from holidays to treat the large number of patients. Daily high temperatures in the Paris region reached as high as 40 C (104 F) in the early days of August, and as many as 500 cases of heat-related illnesses were admitted during a 3-day period. At least 45 heat- and fire-related deaths had been reported in other parts of Europe as well (CNN, CNN).

The drought and record high temperatures have also led to a variety of agricultural impacts throughout Europe. Parched pastures have forced French farmers to start feeding livestock hay normally reserved for winter (BBC), and over half of the 98 departments in the country have requested state aid for drought-affected farmers (BBC). Agricultural groups in Italy have claimed that crop losses have reached as high as 5 billion euros (BBC). EU ministers have agreed to release some grain stores to help feed livestock and to start early payments of normal subsidies (BBC).

Fires have destroyed tens of thousands of hectares of forest and brush throughout Europe, especially Portugal. Fires were still burning in Spain, Croatia, Romania, Greece, the Netherlands, Italy, and France as of 10 August (BBC).

Low river levels across Europe have affected river traffic and power generation as well. Traffic was halted on the Danube River between Vienna and the Slovakia border because of low water, and French nuclear plants (which supply about 80 percent the country's electrical needs) were being allowed to release water back into rivers at temperatures higher than are normally allowed in order to avoid power outages (Reuters, BBC). Electricity demand has been higher than normal throughout Europe and into North Africa due to the extreme temperatures, and has led suppliers to impose regular blackouts (BBC, Reuters).

The latest IRI Seasonal Forecast suggests slightly to moderately enhanced probabilities of above-normal temperatures in Europe for the upcoming September-November season.

South America - Peru  A recent cold wave in the southern Peruvian highlands has contributed to over 87,000 cases of acute respiratory infections, including the deaths of more than 177 children and 25 pregnant women from pneumonia. The deaths have been reported from the eight southern provinces of Peru, with the department of Puno and areas above 1200 m (4000 ft) being hardest hit. Temperatures have dropped to lower than -20 degrees Celsius in areas where there is no electricity and no heat, and Peruvian authorities and the Peruvian Red Cross have been delivering aid, including blankets, warm clothes, and food packages to these areas. Approximately 5 percent of the alpaca herds had been lost as of mid-July, heavily impacting indigenous families whose only source of income is agriculture. The National Service of Meteorology and Hydrology (SENAMHI) has predicted that the cold may last till September. (IFRC, IFRC, UNICEF, DPA)


Africa - Africa: Sahelian  Rainfall was slightly above normal across most of the Sahelian zone of west Africa in July, but generally below-average further south in the Guinea Coast region, reflecting the fact that the ITCZ-related rain band was positioned north of its long-term average location for July. According to the 15 August FAO/GIEWS Sahel report, crop conditions are good in the agricultural production areas of Burkina Faso, Chad, Gambia, Mali, and Niger, which received beneficial rainfall. In the far western Sahel, including Mauritania and Senegal, where rainfall was well below-average in June, the situation remains uncertain. Substantial rainfall did not arrive in central and northern Senegal until late July and early August. Good rains starting in mid-July in southern Mauritania allowed farmers to begin planting and pastures to start recovering (FAO/GIEWS, FEWS). In Mauritania, although emergency food aid has improved the food security situation, 420,000 people still required food assistance. Many farming families required emergency seed distributions to begin planting (FAO).


Asia - Japan  A prolonged rainy season and cooler than normal temperatures during July are being blamed for hurting certain sectors of the Japanese economy, including breweries, amusement parks, and retailers selling air conditioners and women's clothing. The low temperatures have also led to a decrease in energy consumption of more than 15 percent in July compared to July 2002, which was welcomed by officials at the Tokyo Electric Power Company. The company had feared that power outages would be a possibility during the period of peak demand in the summer. Throughout most of Honshu, and particularly in the northern region of Tohoku, average temperatures and hours of sunshine have been well below normal while precipitation amounts have been well above normal (JMA map). Average high temperatures in Tohoku were about 5 deg. C below normal from late June through the first half of July. Record low temperatures were reported in the region as well. (The Japan Times, The Japan Times, The Japan Times, JMA)

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