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IRI Climate Digest   February 2006

Climate Impacts - January

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

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Hazards/Threats

Africa - Malawi,Mozambique  Flooding, which began in late-December, continued to affect southern Malawi and central Mozambique during January (Jan 2006 CID). In Malawi, more than 35,000 households have been affected in the districts of Nsanje (21,798), Chikwawa (13,778) and Mangochi (102) (IFRC, IFRC Map). Approximately 1800 homes and 24,000 hectares of crops were destroyed in the flooding as well. The flooding in Mozambique has played a role in a cholera outbreak in Sofala. As of 7 February, more than 1500 cases and 3 deaths had been reported in the central province. New rainfall in central Mozambique prompted more flooding along the Zambezi River during January as well, forcing the evacuation of 2500 people (AFP, IRIN).

This flooding has occurred during the normal peak of the region's climatological rainy season, which starts in December and tapers off in March and April (Climatological Precipitation Animation). The rains at the end of this year's season may be above-normal as well; the latest IRI seasonal forecast for March-May 2006 indicates a slightly enhanced likelihood of above-normal precipitation in parts of Malawi and Mozambique.

Asia - Japan  Unusually cold temperatures and record snowfall in northern and central Japan in December 2005 (Temperature Percentile Map) and January 2006 were responsible for at least 123 deaths as of early February (AP) and resulted in record January electricity usage (Kyodo News). Soldiers were called into service in northern Japan to help clear away snow as deep as 3 to 4 meters in some places (AFP, BBC), particularly Niigata and Nagano prefectures. Many of the snow-related deaths were the result of accidents, as people tried to clear away snow, or were caused by several avalanches that have occurred during January and early February (AFP). This has reportedly been the deadliest winter since 1983-84 (AFP).

Asia - Indonesia  Many locations throughout the Indonesian archipelago received heavy rainfall (January 2006 Precipitation Percentile Map) that caused flooding and landslides again in late January (Jan 2006 CID). In Sambalia subdistrict on Lombok island, floods killed three people, left six others missing, and forced hundreds of people from their homes. Dozens of other villages on Lombok, Java, West Timor, and central Sumatra also experienced floods during the weekend of 21-22 January (AP). Other reports suggested that as many as 11 people were killed and 500 hectares of corn, rice paddy, chili, and banana crops were damaged, as were fish ponds (DFO). Flooding in central and western Java later in the month reportedly caused 19 fatalities, inundated a hospital and airport and damaged over 13,000 hectares of rice paddy and hundreds of acres of fish ponds (AP, DFO). Indonesia's agriculture ministry has estimated that about 224,000 tons of unhusked rice worth Rp 5.5 billion (about USD 600,000) has been lost due to flooding so far in the 2005/06 rainy season, and 17,639 hectares of 85,768 hectares of rice paddy fields flooded this season have become unproductive (Antara News).

South America - Bolivia  Above-normal precipitation (Jan 2006 WASP Index Map) in Bolivia during January caused destructive flooding and landslides that reportedly killed as many as 13 people, destroyed over 500 houses, and affected 34,000 families (WFP). Flooding occurred along many of the major rivers in the country, including the Rio Grande, Guanay, Tipuani, Mapiri, and the Challana Rivers. Over 1,400 kilometers of roads were destroyed, and landslides blocked roads and isolated rural communities in the departments of La Paz and Beni (OCHA). Losses of cattle were reported in the departments of Santa Cruz and Cochabamba, and potato, wheat, bean, onion, carrot, and corn crops in Potosi sustained heavy damage (ReliefWeb Map, IFRC Map, OCHA, DFO).

Health

Africa - Africa: East,Africa: Greater Horn  Reports on the effects of the failure of the October-December 2005 short rains in East Africa (IFRC Reference Map), the latest in a string of below-normal rainy seasons in the region (CPC Precipitation Time Series for Mombasa, Kenya), have become more numerous during the past month. New warnings from relief groups and new appeals from the UN and individual governments in the region have emphasized again that approximately 11 million people face serious food shortages due to conflicts and the severe drought (IFRC), and that relief efforts are currently underfunded (WFP). In addition to previous reports on livestock deaths and worsening food security, particularly in pastoral or agro-pastoral areas of southern and eastern Ethiopia, southern Somalia, and northern and eastern Kenya (Dec 2005 CID, Jan 2006 CID), most reports in the last month have noted increasing rates of malnutrition and more hunger-related deaths in these same areas (U.K. Telegraph), increasing conflict over scarce water and pasture among nomadic pastoralists (BBC; IRIN), and declining water levels in Lake Victoria linked to the persistent drought and possibly the overuse of lake water for hydropower generation (AFP, IRIN).

Malnutrition, especially among children, is reaching "critical" levels (above 15 percent) in eastern Ethiopia, southern Somalia, and northern Kenya. A survey by Save the Children indicates that rates of global acute malnutrition in eastern Ethiopia are as high as 20 percent (AFP), and malnutrition rates are also as high as 25 percent in some areas of southern Somalia, where between 20 and 30 percent of cattle have died. More than 50 percent of the crops have failed in the most recent growing season, making it the worst harvest there in more than a decade (AP, AFP). Malnutrition rates in northeastern Kenya have risen as high as 18 to 30 percent (IRIN).

New reports suggest that drought-related food shortages are growing elsewhere in East Africa as well. The government of Burundi recently appealed for international aid to help 430,000 families (about 30 percent of the population) in northern and western Burundi (IRIN). Local officials have said that at least 120 people have died because of a lack of food, and thousands have begun migrating to neighboring countries, including Tanzania and Rwanda (IRIN). The government of Tanzania has asked donors for approximately 100,000 tons of food aid to feed 3.7 million people between February and April (IRIN).

The latest IRI seasonal forecast for the March-May 2006 season, which is the season of the "long rains" in East Africa, unfortunately indicates a slightly-enhanced probability of below-normal precipitation for most of the region.

Asia - Asia: Central,Asia: South  Portions of Asia were affected by harsh winter conditions during January. In Central-Southwest Asia, at least 31 people were killed by landslides and avalanches, which were triggered by heavy rain and snow in the provinces of Sar-e-Pol and Badakhshan in northern Afghanistan. Another 15 deaths were reported in these areas due to extreme cold (IRIN, IRIN, BBC, NASA). Avalanches and mudflows in Tajikistan killed at least 19 people and affected 723 others (IFRC, UNCU). In neighboring Kyrgyzstan, 4 people were killed in avalanches in the southern province of Osh, where snow was up to 1.7 meters deep in some areas (IRIN).

Abnormally cold conditions were felt in South Asia as well. As of 12 January, 181 people had died due to cold-related illnesses in India. The state of Uttar Pradesh was hit hardest, accounting for 145 of these deaths. The remainder occurred in Punjab, Bihar and West Bengal. The extreme cold brought frost to Delhi for the first time in 70 years, where temperatures fell to a 70-year low (0.2C). Frost was also blamed for crop damage in surrounding areas (AFP, AFP, AFP). At least 14 and 100 people were killed in Nepal and Bangladesh, respectively (IFRC). While this year's cold-related death toll in South Asia is quite high, it is significantly smaller than that from 2005, when at least 420 people died in Uttar Pradesh alone (AFP).

Western China has also felt the brunt of a harsh winter in recent months. Blizzard conditions in early January forced the evacuation of 97,000 people when 60 centimeters of snow fell in Xinjiang province. At least 9000 livestock were lost due to the snow and cold temperatures, which fell to -36C (AFP).

Europe - Europe: East  A sharp cold wave affected most of the northern half of the Eastern Hemisphere during January. Numerous countries in Eastern Europe, where temperatures below -30C were reported, were among the hardest hit by the cold and its related health impacts (Temperature Anomaly Map). Nearly 740 died and more than 7500 people were treated by doctors due to cold-related illnesses in just three weeks (mid-January and early-February) in Ukraine. The former Soviet Republic also reported a record consumption of natural gas. In Poland, at least 233 people have died since October in what officials have called their coldest winter in 20 years (AFP). More than 100 deaths were reported in Moscow, Russia, where a 20-year low temperature (-33C) was observed. Romania was also hard hit; 95 deaths were reported as of 25 January. By the end of the month, at least 100 other deaths were reported in seven other countries in the region (i.e., Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Turkey, Germany, Georgia, Czech Republic). The majority of these deaths, as much as 90 percent in some areas, were related to alcohol use, and more than half of those killed were homeless (AFP, AFP, AFP, BBC).

Agriculture

Caribbean,South America - Guyana,Trinidad and Tobago  Intense rainfall in December and January (Jan 2006 WASP Index Map) caused flooding along rivers and coastal areas of Guyana, including the capital of Georgetown, beginning in mid-January. According to early damage assessments by the government, as many as 35,000 people had been directly affected by the floods (IFRC, IFRC). The regions most affected include Barima Waini, Pomeroon Supenaam, Essequibo Islands-West Demerara, Mahaica Berbice, and East Berbice Corentyne along the Caribbean coast, and the inland region of Rupununi (ReliefWeb Map). Early estimates suggest that about 95% of crops (1400 acres), including plantains, cassava, ginger, pepper, and vegetables were destroyed in Barima Waini. In Mahaica Berbice, 9,000 acres of rice, 5,000 head of livestock, and other cash crops were also lost in the flooding. Significant losses to fruit and cash crops in Pomeroon Supenaam are expected as well. The national government declared Pomeroon Supenaam and Mahaica Berbice disaster areas on 28 January. Losses to rice exports valued at USD 4 million are expected, and about USD 165 million in damage to infrastructure was sustained. One year ago, more severe flooding damage occurred in many of the same areas of the country, including Georgetown (Feb 2005 CID) (IFRC, OCHA).

Heavy rainfall also caused flooding and landslides on the neighboring island of Trinidad. Flooding along the Ortoire and Poole Rivers displaced hundreds and caused significant damage to infrastructure and agriculture. The village of Mayaro was among those hardest hit; nearly all of the 700 homes there were flooded. According to the Agriculture Minister, $15 million will be made available for farmers who suffered losses in the flood. Landslides destroyed sections of major roadways as well (Trinidad & Tobago Newsday, Trinidad Express).

The latest IRI seasonal forecast for the March-May 2006 season indicates a slightly- to significantly-enhanced probability of above-normal precipitation for much of northern South America and the eastern Caribbean, including Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago.

Energy

Africa - Kenya,Tanzania,Uganda  Drought conditions in Tanzania are continuing to impact water resources, and consequently, hydropower generation, which comprises two-thirds of the country's electricity generation capacity (Dec 2005 CID; 12-Month WASP Index Map). Water levels at the Mtera Dam, which is connected to the major power plants in the central portion of the country, have fallen below the minimum level for power generation, forcing the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources to invoke daytime power cuts. These cuts were recently extended from 8-hour to 12-hour cuts for all domestic customers and businesses in residential areas (Business Day). The power generated by the Tanzania Electric Supply Company and other state-contracted firms (447 MW) is currently only half of the national demand and there is little hope of importing power from neighboring countries such as Kenya and Uganda, because they are experiencing their own water and power shortages. Officials do not expect the situation to improve until the next rainy season in northern and northeastern Tanzania, which typically begins in March. The central and southern portion of the country experiences a single rainy season during November-April (Climatological Precipitation Animation) (IRIN, Reuters).

The latest IRI seasonal forecast for the upcoming March-May 2006 season indicates a slightly-enhanced probability of below-normal precipitation in northern Tanzania and above-normal precipitation in southwestern portions of the country.


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