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IRI Climate Digest   July 2004

Climate Impacts - June

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

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Asia - Bangladesh,India,Nepal  Heavy monsoon rainfall, particularly in the Ganges and Brahmaputra river basins (June 2004 WASP Index), extending from mid-June into early July, has caused extensive flooding in Bangladesh, Nepal, and eastern India, trapping and displacing several million people and killing at least 241. Some local officials in India and Bangladesh have said that the flooding is the worst they had seen in over a decade. The states in India most affected include Bihar, Tripura, Assam, and Arunachal Pradesh in the northeast (reference map). It is estimated that over 2 million people in northeastern India have been forced out of their homes. Twenty-two of the twenty-four districts of the state of Assam have been affected by flooding, and 51 people have been killed. About 4 million people in the state of Bihar have been affected and over 40 deaths have been reported. Roads and rail lines in northeastern India have been submerged; relief teams are dropping food and medicine from the air. Some of the flooding in Bihar in June was reportedly caused by water releases from the Lakhimpur reservoir in Assam. According to media reports, about one-third of Bangladesh has been affected by the flooding, particularly in the northeast. About 3 million people have been trapped in their homes by the flood waters. Heavy rainfall in Nepal has led to flooding and landslides, which caused most of the 150 deaths reported in the region since the beginning of July. Agriculture has been heavily affected in all three countries. (The Independent, BBC, IFRC, Reuters, CNN, DFO)

The last IRI Seasonal Forecast for August-October 2004 indicates an enhanced probability of below-normal precipitation in Nepal and portions of northern India and western Bangladesh.

Asia - China  According to China's State Headquarters for Flood Prevention and Drought Control, as of 7 July, floods and landslides had killed 288 people in 22 provinces during 2004. Approximately 130,000 homes have collapsed and 33 million people have been affected. While severe in magnitude, these impacts are relatively common during China's rainy season. The southern provinces of Hunan, Yunnan, Guizhou, and Guangxi have been among those hardest hit. Among the recent heavy rains in Hunan province was a downpour that dropped 300 mm (12 in) of rain in 12 hours. Ten tributaries of the Yuan River consequently flooded, damaging 600 villages and 42 townships. Economic losses in Hunan are reportedly over USD 300 million. Four townships along the Yin Jiang River in the province of Guizhou are experiencing the worst flooding in 100 years. In Yunnan, at least 87 people were killed and nearly 300,000 hectares of crops were destroyed by floods, mudflows, and other related events during June. Concerns over heavy rains and flooding are expected to continue. China has warned that nearly 30,000 reservoirs have safety problems and the flood season, which typically lasts through the end of summer, is just now getting underway in many locations. Provinces in central and northern China will be on alert for similar impacts as the heavy rains make their way north in the coming months. (IFRC, Reuters, IFRC, AFP, Xinhua)

The latest IRI Seasonal Forecast indicates a slightly enhanced likelihood of below-normal precipitation in eastern China during August-October 2004.

Caribbean - Dominican Republic,Haiti  As of the beginning of July, the first round of relief operations was completed following the destructive flooding in the Dominican Republic and Haiti in late May (June 2004 CID). The estimated number of deaths has increased to about 2000 people, with many more still missing (IFRC). According to OCHA, the primary humanitarian issues now are the distribution of relief to affected areas, the relocation of displaced people, and close monitoring of sanitary and health conditions. About 110 metric tons of food were airlifted to about 15,000 people in the heavily affected and mountainous district of Mapou in southeastern Haiti. About 10,000 households in the area were affected by the floods, and a large percentage of the agricultural production in the region was destroyed (WFP). Access to food and safe drinking water is still a problem in many flood-affected areas (UN Wire). The tropical storm season in the Caribbean Sea is just beginning, and typically runs until November. Any tropical storms that affect Hispaniola during the season may hamper ongoing relief operations.

Central America - Nicaragua  A series of tropical waves in June was reportedly responsible for the heavy rainfall events (June 2004 OLR anomaly) that caused floods and mudslides in Nicaragua, prompting disaster declarations for the North and South Atlantic Autonomous Regions and the Department of Matagalpa, which was most seriously affected (reference map). DFO reported that seven rivers were affected by flooding, which began on 24 June, and continued into early July. Over 60 mudslides were reported in the region around Musun Mountain; about 1400 people from the area were evacuated to the town of Rio Blanco (IFRC). According to the National Emergency Committee (CEN) of Nicaragua, about 18,350 people and 54 communities were affected, 25 deaths were reported, and 88 houses, 29 schools, and 2,075 acres of crops were damaged (OCHA). The vice president of Nicaragua requested emergency aid worth $US 11.2 million, both for humanitarian relief and to rebuild homes and damaged roads (DPA).

Water Resources

Africa - Eritrea  Poor rains during the March-May azmera rains in Eritrea are being blamed for exacerbating drinking water shortages. (Mar-May 2004 WASP Index) The poor performance of the rains allowed the ground water table to remain unreplenished. Critical shortages are currently being reported in the Northern Red Sea, Southern Red Sea, and Anseba regions, according to OCHA. Approximately 30,000 people are receiving emergency water from aid trucks, though nearly 54,000 people are in need of aid in terms of access to water. Relief agencies have requested USD 4 million for the water sector in Eritrea this year, but less than half of that has been donated. Eritrea has struggled to recover from nearly 4 years of drought which has greatly limited water resources. Improvement of pasture and agricultural outputs are now completely dependent on the performance of the June-September rains. (IRIN, FEWSNet, IRIN)

The latest IRI Seasonal Forecast for August-October 2004 suggests a slightly enhanced probability of below-normal precipitation for the end of Eritrea's kremti (June-September) rains.

Asia - Afghanistan  Drinking and irrigation water shortages are being reported in many parts of Afghanistan. Poor precipitation amounts during March and April, typically the wettest part of the year, and above-average temperatures during January-March are partially to blame for the shortages. The high temperatures hastened the melting of existing snowpack and prevented the build-up of new snowpack, which will most likely reduce water availability later in this year's growing cycle. While most of northern Afghanistan is reporting near-normal conditions, provinces across the south are expecting considerable shortages in the coming months. The second season for irrigated crops, which typically occurs during July-November, is expected to feel the brunt of the water shortages. Streams and wells across the south may dry up earlier than last year, hindering access to drinking water. Hydro-power plants linked to dams at Daronta, Naghlu, and Sarobi are also expected to be affected. The snowpack that is the main source for the rivers flowing through those dams has already decreased significantly, leaving little water for the generation plants after water used for agriculture is diverted. (FEWSNet, FEWSNet)

While the decreased snowpack leaves concerns for later in the year, drought conditions have already started affecting agriculture and food security in some areas. According to Acting Against Hunger, an NGO working in the region, 75% of arable land in the central highland areas of Ghor and Hazarjhat is unused due to lack of water, and 75% of cattle in the region have been sold or destroyed. Approximately 70% of Afghanistan's population relies on agriculture for at least part of their livelihood, making them vulnerable to such drought conditions. A recent survey by the WFP estimated that about one third of the rural population, about 4 million people, are currently food insecure. The resurgence of drought conditions and water shortages is particularly disappointing after bumper yields of wheat last year and good rains in early 2004 gave hopes that the drought that had plagued the region for the past 4 years would finally be broken. (IRIN, Refugees International)

North America - United States  Long-term drought in the western United States is greatly affecting the Colorado River Basin. Most of the basin region, which spreads over seven states, has experienced drought conditions for four years, though some areas have seen up to nine years of drought. (Nov 2003, Jan 2004, Apr 2004 CID Report) The adjusted annual flow of the Colorado River during 2001-03 was the lowest on record (5.4 million acre-feet), just over half of that recorded during the Dust Bowl of the 1930's (10.2 million acre-feet). A reconstruction of the Colorado River flow based on tree-ring data indicates that this may be worst drought in 500 years. According to the tree ring reconstruction, the lowest five-year flow on record prior to the 2001-03 measurement was 8.8 million acre-feet during 1590-1594. Lake Meade, which is largely fed by the Colorado River and supplies southern Nevada with approximately 90% of its drinking water supply, has lowered 70 feet (21 meters) during the drought. Both Lake Meade and Lake Powell, the river's two largest reserviors, are only half full. Water authorities in the region do not expect relief from the drought conditions until snow begins to accumulate during the upcoming winter. (NCDC, AP/CNN, Las Vegas Sun, Colorado River Commission, Water Education Foundation)

Other areas in the western United States are also experiencing severe drought conditions. According to the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Station, central Nevada, southern Idaho, south-central Montana, and eastern and southwestern Utah will potentially experience water restrcitions and widespread crop and pasture losses. The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) is also watching the situation very carefully, as fire danger indices in portions of southern California are at record levels and much of the western U.S. has above-average fire potential for the remainder of the summer. (AP/DailyStar, NIFC)


Africa - Malawi  Below-average precipitation during the November 2003-April 2004 rainy season has been blamed for this year's poor maize harvest, which is currently underway. According to the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee, up to 1.68 million people, primarily in southern Malawi (reference map), where precipitation deficits were largest, will require food aid in the coming year because of poor crop production. Beneficial rainfall did not start until January 2004, and precipitation overall was below-normal and poorly distributed. According to the Malawi National Statistics Office, projected production of the staple crop, maize, is 1.73 million metric tons this year, down 13% from last year, and below the 2.2 million metric tons that Malawi typically consumes annually. Between 56,000 and 83,550 metric tons of food aid will likely be required. (FEWS Net, IRIN)

Africa - Kenya  On Tuesday, July 6, the president of Kenya released a statement requesting food aid to help feed Kenyans affected by prolonged drought and food shortages (IRIN, AP). According to the World Food Programme (WFP), about 1.4 million people in Kenya will require between 85,000 and 90,000 metric tons of food aid for six months, starting in August 2004 (IRIN). Areas of the northern Rift Valley, Central, Eastern, North Eastern, and Coast provinces (reference map) have experienced below-normal rainfall during the last few rainy seasons, starting with the long (March-May) rains of 2003 and continuing through the long rains of 2004 (Mar-May 2004 WASP Index). (IFRC; March, April, June 2004 CID Reports)

The latest IRI forecast for the August-October 2004 season indicates an enhanced likelihood of below-normal precipitation across most of Kenya.

Africa - Africa,Africa: West  Locust swarms were reported to be moving southward to summer breeding areas in the West African Sahel during June as precipitation began to fall, marking the beginning of the region's June-September rainy season. According to reports from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), by the second half of June immature desert locust swarms had been found in southern Mauritania, northern Senegal, and northern Mali, having migrated southward from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. Smaller locust groups were also located in Niger (reference map). Light rainfall in Senegal, southern Mauritania, and Mali during June (June 2004 CPC/FEWS estimated precipitation map) made conditions increasingly favorable for the continued development of desert locust populations in the area. According to FAO, swarms in northwest Africa are expected to continue to form and move southward into the Sahel. Continuing rainfall in the Sahel will allow desert locusts to mature and lay eggs in July, disperse throughout the region, and seriously threaten developing crops. FAO continues to ask for international assistance to help fund locust control efforts that are already underway. (IRIN)

The latest IRI seasonal precipitation forecast for the end of the rainy season in the West African Sahel (August-October 2004) indicates a slightly enhanced probability of above-normal precipitation in portions of central Mauritania, and a slightly enhanced probability of below-normal rainfall in northern Burkina Faso, southern Niger, northern Nigeria, much of central and southern Chad, and northern Cameroon.

Africa - Burundi,Rwanda,Uganda  Poor rains during the last half of the February-June rainy season in Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda, are being blamed for poor crop production in many areas. (Apr-Jun 2004 WASP Index) In Burundi, there has been a sharp drop in the production of beans, the country's primary staple crop during the Feb-Jun season, due to the early arrival of the dry season. Cassava, another important staple in the northern and eastern provinces, has also been severely affected by a "mosaic virus". Consequently, prices for both beans and cassava have increased sharply, and food shortages are expected to begin in August. According to the Burundi national food security early warning system (SAP-SSA) these shortages may last until the end of the year. Acute malnutrition and chronic malnutrition rates among children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years in the northeastern provinces of Ngozi, Kayanza, and Bubanza are 10% and 61%, respectively, according to a 2004 UNICEF survey. Rwanda, which also saw an abrupt end to its rainy season at the end of April, is reporting poor bean production in the southern, central, and eastern provinces. (Apr-Jun 2004 Estimated Precipitation) According to FEWSNet, however, sorghum production in Rwanda was good despite the poor rains. The sorghum crop was planted early in the season and is generally a more drought-resistant crop than beans. (FEWSNet, IRIN)

Uganda began seeing poorly-distributed rains in mid-May. The dry conditions persisted through the last month of the March-June cropping season, which is typically the major cropping season for northern, eastern, and central Uganda. Despite above-normal rainfall in some areas during the first half of the March-June season, particularly in the south where this is the minor cropping season, below normal production is expected for the banana, sorghum, bean, millet, and maize crops. Production of maize and beans may be as low as 60% of normal levels. The risk of food insecurity, particularly in the northeast, which only has a single cropping season during the year (April-September), as well as portions of the east, is expected to increase as the availability of these staple crops decreases. (FEWSNet) The latest IRI Seasonal Forecast for August-October 2004 indicates a slightly-enhanced probability of below-normal precipitation for the remainder of northeastern Uganda's rainy season.

Africa - Namibia,Zambia  The abundant rainfall that caused devastating flooding along the Zambezi River during the spring of 2004 has been given credit for above-average grain production in Zambia and Namibia. According to government projections, Zambia is expecting a maize surplus of at least 300,000 metric tons. The country was one of the few in Southern Africa that not only had adequate rains, but also made seeds and fertilizer available to small-scale farmers early in the season. Consequently, some of its maize surplus will be exported to neighboring countries that were less fortunate with their grain crops. (IRIN)

Although Nambia will need to import approximately 150,000 metric tons of cereals to meet national food needs, the total grain production for 2003-04 is expected to be much better than last year. According to the Namibia Early Warning and Food Information Unit, coarse grain and maize production are expected to increase by 36% and 31%, respectively, from the 2002-03 harvest. Above-average rains, particularly during the second half of the rainy season, proved to be important for the grain production, according to FAO. (IRIN; March, April, May, June 2004 CID Reports)

Europe - The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia  Heavy rainfall in the early days of June (monthly precipitation anomaly map) reportedly produced flooding along the Pena, Vardar, Anska Reka, Trkajna, and Turija rivers and caused extensive damage to agricultural land throughout Macedonia (Relief Web map). According to OCHA, as much as 50 percent of the agricultural land in Macedonia was damaged. Serious flooding in the municipality of Bogovinje caused a bridge collapse in the village of Radiovce. Houses elsewhere in Macedonia were flooded or damaged, including 40 in the municipality of Jegunovce and 70 in the village of Gjermo. According to the OCHA report, up to 100,000 people have been directly affected by the floods.

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