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IRI Climate Digest   February 2001

Climate Impacts - January

Contributions to this page were made by IRI researchers Dr. A. Amissah-Arthur (Agriculture), Dr. K. Broad (Fisheries), Dr. M. Hopp (Health), Dr. B. Lyon (Energy), Dr. A. Seth (Hazards) and Dr. L. Zubair (Water Resources).


Afghanistan "The situation in Afghanistan has seriously deteriorated in the course of 2000 and early 2001," said United Nations Co-ordinator Erick de Mul at a January press conference in Islamabad. Two years of drought, many years of war, and lack of investment in productive capacity have culminated in a major human tragedy. "This country has never faced a humanitarian crisis of such dimensions before," he added. A cold wave hit the western provincial capital city of Heratat the end of January, with temperatures falling to as low as -25 C, resulting in some 150 deaths in the IDP (internally displaced people) camps outside the city. (OCHA; OCHA)

Mozambique Mozambique entered 2001 under the threat of floods in Zambezia province because heavy rain in Zambia had forced the authorities to release water from the Kariba dam. However, the Zambezi River burst its banks on 3 January, flooding farmland in the north-western province of Tete, while the Cahora Bassa dam in Tete province stored enough water to prevent flooding further downstream. Later in January, a tropical storm brought heavy rain to Quelimane, capital of Zambezia, and other areas of the province. By 26 January, 17,000 people were reported to be affected by floods in six districts, as well as the provincial capital. (UNRC; OCHA; DMC Seasonal Outlook)

East Africa Drought in Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania is a consequence of three years of poor rainfall in the region followed by total failure of rainfall in April 2000 in many parts of the Horn. Although some forecasts indicate improvements in Ethiopia and Somalia, and rain has been falling in Nairobi for most of January, there are significant parts of Kenya, Eritrea, Tanzania and Djibouti which are still awaiting signs of first normal rains this year. (Reuters; UN)

Sri Lanka A powerful cyclone with winds reaching 180 kmph followed a month of unseasonably high rainfall in Eastern Sri Lanka and Southern Tamil Nadu. This was the fourth strongest cyclone of the last 100 years in Sri Lanka. 5 persons died and 75, 000 were rendedered homeless and reservoirs and monuments suffered damage. (Reliefweb and SLMOHN)

Mongolia Following the worst winter in decades last year, which seriously undermined the food security of large numbers of people especially nomadic herders, this year the country again faces a devastating winter which will greatly exacerbate existing food supply problems. Thick snow has blanketed livestock pastures for the second year in succession on which herds usually feed in winter and temperatures have fallen to as low as -50 C. The harsh winter has already killed about 600 000 animals, on which a third of the population rely entirely for their livelihood and income. With more snow forecast in February and March, it is currently projected that several million livestock could be again lost this year. The current livestock losses come on top of some 3 million animals lost in 1999/2000, which represented around 10 percent of the total herd. (OCHA, OCHA)

Siberia Heavy snowstorms with unprecedented frosts have been raging in Russia's Far East and Siberian regions during these first days of the new year. The temperature fell to -55 in some Russian regions on 5 Jan, with winds as strong as 25-30 metres a second. Temperatures plunged to as low as -58 F (-50 C) as part of an ongoing cold spell over a two-week period. Authorities in the district of Krasnoyarsk, 2,200 miles (3,500 km) east of Moscow, reported that they expected to deplete all of their coal reserves by mid Jan 2001. Police restricted traffic in the region in order to prevent further freezing deaths of motorists and passengers. (CNN)

Bolivia According to the United Nations Resident Coordinators' Office in Bolivia, heavy rains continue in the western and northern highlands, increasing the risk of further flooding, in particular, in the Amazon lowlands. The Government of Bolivia has declared an emergency situation in four departments (La Paz, Oruro, Cochabamba and Beni) and requested the assistance of the international community for the victims of the floods. According to reports from the SENADECI (The National Civil Defense Service), approximately 70,000 people are affected as a result of both floods and drought. (IFRC; OCHA)

Australia Australian officials began airlifting food and supplies to communities in northern Queensland as a result of floods that have covered more than 58,000 square miles and left some communities stranded for up to 6 weeks. The area has been experiencing flooding since October 2000. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology said that the La Nina weather phenomenon in 2000 had produced the second wettest year in Australia since 1900. (DRO)


Australia Seventy-five cases of Ross River virus-associated disease have been reported in the Northern Territory of Australia. Recent heavy rains in the region have resulted in increased densities of mosquitoes that carry this debilitating disease. Warnings have also been issued concerning the presence of Kunjin and Murray Valley encephalitis viruses. (ProMED)

Saudi Arabia Since the beginning of the Rift Valley Fever (RVF) outbreak last September, 843 people have been affected with the disease, including 114 deaths. Concern over additional RVF cases exists with the appearance of mosquito-breeding swamps in Jeddah caused by recent rain storms. (ProMED)

India A cold wave in northern and eastern India left 68 dead from hypothermia. Most of the victims were homeless people in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. (EA)

Southern Africa Earlier rains are believed to have triggered cholera outbreaks in six southern countries including: South Africa, Swaziland, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In KwaZula-Natal, South Africa, 37,204 cases and 85 deaths have been reported since the start of the outbreak in August 2000. 2,300 cases and 60 deaths have been reported in Mozambique since the outbreak began in Dec. 2000. (UNWire; WHO)

Burundi With a lack of rainfall reducing last year's harvest in northern Burundi, the number of severely malnourished children in the province of Karuzi has doubled from 460 children at the end of Dec. 2000 to 1,100 at the end of Jan. 2001. Currently 19,000 children and nursing mothers are receiving supplementary food in Karuzi. A malaria epidemic continues in the area with 30,000 cases being treated per week. (MSF)

Siberia Over 200 people have been admitted to hospitals with frostbite following frigid temperatures of -50 C. Rising fuel prices and energy shortages are worsening the situation. (IFRC)

Water Resources/Energy

Romania Water availability in surface flows, reservoirs and ground water reserves is very low due to the prolonged drought Romania has been facing since May 2000. The most affected are localities in the Jiu Valley of the southwestern part of the country. Water rationing is under consideration. (CNN)

Kenya The Kenyan government announced that the unprecedented 16-month nationwide power rationing was suspended from 22 Jan following the currently unexpected heavy rains. The rationing started in September 1999 after a record water shortage due to prolonged drought, which led to the lowest water levels of energy reservoirs affecting the operations of the hydropower generators. (PMA)

Sri Lanka The receding water levels of the Mahaweli reservoirs due to shortfall in rains has left some reservoirs at 20% of capacity in a month in which it is usually full. Electricity rates have been raised by 25% and air conditioners and non-essential consumption have been banned. The next season's forecast is for unusually dry conditions to continue. (Ceylon Daily News)

Iran Paralyzing snow and avalanches killed seven people in the western province of Kermanshah, Iran's official news agency IRNA reported. However, the much needed blanket of snow covered most of the Iranian plateau, bringing some relief to a nation which is emerging from two consecutive years of crippling drought. According to a United Nations report, last year's drought cost Iran 3.5 billion U.S. dollars in losses. (CNN)


Kenya The widespread onset of the Oct-Nov "short rains" helped to boost tea production. Widespread failure of the "long rains" during the spring had caused numerous crop failures during the earlier growing season. Although the short rains were a boost to crops during the fall, water rationing remains in effect in Nairobi due to the previous drought conditions. Reports also indicate that the drought has resulted in a 40% loss to the nation's cattle with 10-20% losses to sheep and goat herds nationwide. (Reuters, CNN, CIP)

South Africa A heat wave in the corn belt stressed summer crops in or nearing reproduction. (JAWF)

South America Across central Argentina and southern Brazil, widespread showers benefited vegetative to reproductive summer crops. (JAWF)

Western Russia Unseasonably mild weather continued to provide favorable overwintering conditions for winter grains. (JAWF)

Australia Warm weather aided summer crop development and heavy rain increased moisture reserves in Western Australia's agricultural districts. (JAWF)

Europe Unseasonably mild weather benefited vegetative winter grains in western Europe, and provided favorable overwintering conditions for dormant winter grains in eastern Europe. (JAWF)

Material for this portion of the IRI Climate Information Digest has been extracted from the UN/OCHA Reliefweb (RW), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Doctors Without Borders (DWB), Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases (ProMED), USDA/NOAA Joint Agricultural Weather Facility (JAWF) and the Fishmeal Exporters Organization (FEO). Additional information was obtained from the NOAA/OGP Climate Information Program, Red Cross/CNN/IBM Disaster Relief, Earth Alert, CNN, and the Power Marketing Association PMA.

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