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IRI Climate Digest   January 2002

Climate Impacts - December

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


East Africa Although favorable weather resulted in good harvests in general this year in Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda, continued poor rains in pastoral regions of Somalia, Kenya (northern and eastern regions), and Ethiopia are causing food shortages and migrations of people and livestock in search of food, water, and grazing lands. Pastoral populations in Ethiopia and Kenya are relying upon food assistance. 50,000 displaced people in Eritrea continue to receive food assistance. Drought conditions in these areas have persisted for about three years. (IRIN, CIP) In Somalia, where conditions are particularly bad, poor rains during October-December resulted in the lowest main season harvest in the last seven years. Recent heavy rains in neighbouring Ethiopian highlands have caused an overflow of rivers in southern Somalia, displacing large numbers of people and aggravating the already serious food supply situation. The UN has appealed for humanitarian aid for 800,000 Somalis.

The current forecast for the March-May short rains indicates equal probablilities for above, normal and below average rains.

Southern Africa In Zimbabwe, serious food difficulties are reported in the south, east and extreme north where production was reduced by dry weather or excessive rains. Around 705 000 people in rural areas are at risk of food shortages. In addition, 250 000 people in urban areas are experiencing food difficulties due to a sharp increase in food prices, while some 30 000 farm workers have lost their jobs and are left without means of subsistence. ( FAO) According to a report released on 19 December, called the Regional Flood Watch, pre-rainy season reports indicated that most dams in the region were already between 75-100 percent full. This is exacerbated by the soil saturation levels which have also been reported as high, as a result of rainfall patterns over the past two rainy seasons. (IRIN)

The forecast for January-March of 2002, which was released by the Drought Monitoring Center in Harare, Zimbabwe, suggested a greater likelihood of normal to above normal rains.

Europe Extreme winter weather, including very cold temperatures and heavy snows, affected most of Europe during the middle and late parts of the month. Deaths were blamed on the cold temperatures from Russia and the Baltic states to Turkey. In Poland the winter weather has been responsible for at least 135 deaths so far. Heavy snows stranded trains and cut off roads in Greece and Turkey. Cars in mountain towns in Macedonia were reportedly covered by snow drifts several meters deep. Airports and highways were closed throughout the Balkans, and snow and ice caused traffic problems in France and Spain. In Corsica nearly a dozen villages remained inaccessible for four days because of heavy snow. (DRO, CNN)

Australia More than 100 bush fires, which began around Dec. 20, burned outside Sydney in the state of New South Wales. More than half of the fires were believed to have been started by arsonists. Extremely dry and hot conditions have allowed the fires to spread quickly. Temperatures have reportedly reached 50 deg. C, buckling railway tracks and causing cooling systems in commuter trains to break down. No serious injuries or deaths have been reported; at least 170 homes have been destroyed. The toll on local wildlife, including koalas, kangaroos, and birds, is expected to be large, with 1.2 million acres affected. The fires are reportedly the worst since 1994. (DRO, DRO)

Colombia Relief has been provided to 4,500 flood victims in the states of Tolima, Cundinamarca, and Antioquia in Colombia. Heavy rains in December caused rivers to overflow damaging and destroying homes and farms. (ReliefWeb)

Brazil Heavy rains have caused flooding and mudslides in the State of Rio de Janeiro. Most affected areas are shanty-town dwellings, particularly in the city of Petropolis. The death toll has reached almost fifty and some 1,500 to 2,000 persons have had to leave their homes.(OCHA, IFRC, DRO)

Southwest Asia Heavy rain and snow has hit much of Afghanistan, bringing hope that the three-year drought might be ending. The recent rain is not enough however, to allow for the winter planting of wheat, which is already two months late (AFP). Over the last four weeks hunger and cold killed 177 people, majority of them children, in a refugee camp near Kunduz in northern Afghanistan. According to UNICEF some 100,000 children are at risk of dying from cold and hunger this winter, in addition to the 300,000 children who die in Afghanistan each year (IOM).

Drier than average conditions have continued in the early part of the wet season. The seasonal forecast, which currently calls for equal probabilities of above, normal, and below normal rain and snow through the remainder of the season, offers little hope for relief.


Vietnam A dengue epidemic, coinciding with flooding in Vietnam, has affected more than 39,000 people including 81 deaths this year, a 59% increase over last year. Moist and humid conditions are ideal for this mosquito-borne disease. Sources ReliefWeb, ProMED


West Africa In western Africa, bumper cereal crops have been harvested in the Sahel. This will allow replenishment of farmers'and government stocks. Record harvests are estimated for Burkina Faso, The Gambia and Niger, while above average crops are estimated for Chad, Mali and Senegal. However, prospects are less favourable in Cape Verde, Mauritania and Guinea-Bissau as compared to last year. ( FAO)

Argentina Although drier than average weather brought some relief to the Pampas region of Argentina in December, the Agriculture, Livestock and Food Minister estimated farming losses in Buenos Aires province, due to floods during previous months, at 685 million pesos. Intense rains and floods have caused losses in the sunflower crop estimated at 191.7 M pesos plus 500,000 hectares have not been sown due to raising water table. Maize losses totaled 178.5 M pesos with 320,000 hectares unable to be sown. Wheat losses were 130.0 M pesos, soy 35.8 M, and livestock 70 M pesos. Rural infrastructure loses totaled 80 M pesos. (CIP)

Mozambique Heavy rains in southern Mozambique have virtually made the city of Inhambane inaccessible by road. (IRIN) Abnormally high rainfall will affect harvests in 2002. With a large portion of production areas still flooded, only an estimated 30% of the planned areas will be planted.(WFP)

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 (DRO), COMTEX, CNN, International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), International Organisation for Migration (IOM), Agence France-Presse (AFP), and the Power Marketing Association PMA.

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