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IRI Climate Digest   June 2003

Climate Impacts - May

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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Hazards - Africa: Greater Horn  Following a late start to the onset of seasonal rains in parts of the Greater Horn, unusually heavy rainfall during April and May has resulted in flooding in western Kenya, eastern Ethiopia and southern Somalia. Over 100,000 people were reported displaced by the floods in Ethiopia, with more than 60,000 displaced in western Kenya. More than 100 fatalities were reported. With drought affecting many parts of the region, the heavy rains, although resulting in the loss of lives and property in some areas, also helped to regenerate pasture for livestock, increased water in dams for power generation, and are hoped to contribute to good crop production, according to Joshua Wairoto, the acting director of the Meteorological Department of Kenya. Reuters, The Nation, IFRC

Agriculture - Africa: Southern  The recent rainy season, which was erratic in its timing and spatial coverage, had varying effects on crops, and the WFP recently warned that food aid needs in Southern Africa remain substantial despite an overall increase in production. Crop production was up in Zambia and Malawi over last year, but WFP indicates that Zimbabwe will produce enough food to cover only 30% of its needs. Irrigation helped crop production in South Africa, while crops withered in southern Mozambique due to insufficient rainfall. In Malawi, an improved harvest and adequate food imports this year have resulted in the scheduled close of free food distribution at the end of May (IRIN). According to FEWS Net, however, food shortages still exist in some districts of Malawi, including Nsanje, Chikwawa, Mwanza, and Mangochi in the south and Mzimba, Rumphi, and Karonga in the north.

In Lesotho, World Vision plans to target food aid only to the most vulnerable, rather than providing general food assistance due to better crop production this year. There were large regional disparities in production of harvest in Mozambique even though estimates indicate a slight overall increase in production compared to last year, according to a FEWS Net report. In general, harvests are expected to be worse than last year in the south, which received very little rainfall, and better than last year in the north. USDA, WFP, IRIN, IRIN, IRIN

Water Resources - Burkina Faso,Guinea  Last year's drought and recent high temperatures are contributing factors to water shortages in Burkina Faso and Guinea. Very low water levels in reservoirs in Guinea have severely limited hydroelectric power generation, and in the capital city of Conakry, residents have been without electricity and drinking water in their homes for several months. In Burkina Faso, low water levels coupled with increasing demand for water has led to water shortages, especially in the capital, Ouagadougou. IRIN, IRIN

The latest IRI seasonal forecast for July-September 2003 indicates an enhanced probability of above-normal precipitation for much of West Africa.

Hazards - Madagascar  Cyclone Manou hit central-eastern Madagascar 11-13 May causing over 70 deaths and leaving nearly 50,000 people without shelter in and near the town of Vatomandry. Estimates suggest that up to 95% of dwellings in Vatomandry and neighboring towns were destroyed. In addition to the flooding caused by heavy rains, sustained winds of approximately 200 km/h destroyed rice fields. The remnants of cyclone Fari brought heavy rains and flooding to some of these same areas in January 2003. IRIN, IFRC, PANA

Hazards - Namibia,Zambia  The Zambezi River burst its banks in southwestern Zambia and the Caprivi region of Namibia causing the worst flooding in that area in 20 years. Twenty-two villages have been flooded in the Tshankaka flood plains, displacing 25,000 people and causing two deaths. Agricultural fields are covered in water and people and livestock trapped by rising water have become vulnerable to crocodile attacks. The floods were initiated by prolonged heavy rains upstream in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Caprivi strip has been declared a disaster area by the government, who requested help in providing humantarian assistance to the area. Its relief resources have already been strained by efforts to help its people cope with drought conditions in the southern half of the country. AFP, Reuters, IFRC, IRIN, WFP

Agriculture - Tanzania  FEWS reported in May that food production in Tanzania will likely decline by 10% compared to last year due to poor rainfall during the three growing seasons there. Although food prices are on the rise and shortages are expected near the end of the year, the food security situation is expected to be good as long as the expected shortages are addressed in advance. IRIN, FEWS Net


Health - Bangladesh,India  The death toll from a heat wave in south Asia has risen to at least 1438 in India and 40 in Bangladesh. The southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh has been the most severely affected with 1317 deaths; peak temperatures there have been between 113 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit during the last few weeks. Most of the deaths have occurred among the poor daily wage laborers, construction workers and rickshaw pullers. The continuing dry spell in southern India state of Karnataka is being blamed for an outbreak of Kyanasur Forest Disease, or monkey fever. This tick-borne virus, often found on dead monkeys, has killed 10 and affected 253 people, the highest number of cases in recent years. Climatologically, May is the warmest month of the year in India and heat waves often occur prior to the onset of the summer monsoon. This year's heat wave has been particularly harsh, with temperatures as much as 10 deg. C above average, and record high temperatures set at some locations. BBC, CNN, OCHA, IFRC

The latest IRI seasonal forecast indicates a slightly increased probability of above-normal precipitation for much of western India during the upcoming July-September season.

Health - Singapore  The recent hot weather in Singapore is believed to have contributed to a doubling of dengue cases over last year's total; 1842 cases have been reported so far this year. Mosquitoes, and the dengue viruses they carry, develop more quickly under warmer temperatures, increasing dengue transmission. ProMED

Hazards - Sri Lanka  May is the month when the heavy Yala season rains start and the southwest of Sri Lanka is expected to become wet. From the 11th to the 19th of May 2003, a tropical storm made its way across the Bay of Bengal with torrential rainfall causing perhaps 300 deaths, the displacement of 200,000 persons, and resulting in heavy damage to the infrastructure, economy and livelihoods of southwestern Sri Lanka. Particularly hard hit were the tea, rice, and rubber industries. According to the head of the Tea Association of Sri Lanka, the output of low-grown tea, which comprises more than half of the country's crop, could drop by 20-30% in the next three months. The impact of the disaster on the Sri Lanka's economic growth has been assessed at 5.5% by the central bank. The flooding was considered the worst to affect the region in 50 years. IRI, OCHA, OCHA , OCHA, Reuters

Water Resources - Taiwan  With reduced rainfall in recent months reservoir levels in northern Taiwan are well below average, prompting officials to reduce water pressure in northern counties at night in an effort to reduce consumption. The unusually dry spring this year follows a severe drought throughout Taiwan in 2002. Water levels in the Tsengwen and Wushantou reservoirs in Tainan County dropped to their second lowest levels in the past three decades, according to an article in the Taipei Times. While tropical storm Nangka brought heavy rain to southern Taiwan in early June and subsequent rains in the north have brought some relief, a healthy rainy season is needed to raise water levels. Taipei Times, Taipei Times

North America

Hazards - United States  NOAA reported a record number of tornadoes in the central United States for the period 1-10 May with preliminary figures indicating that more than 400 observed. For the period May 4 through May 10, 384 tornadoes occurred in 19 states resulting in 42 deaths. Climatologically, the number of tornadoes in the United States is a maximum during the spring. NOAA, CNN

Health - United States  A mild winter, unusually wet spring, and good foraging last summer, have resulted in a deer mouse population explosion in Montana. In two weeks, three cases and two deaths from hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, a severe respiratory infection carried by deer mice, were reported in the state. ProMED

South America

Agriculture - Argentina  The flooding which occurred last month in Sante Fe is reported to be responsible for a drop in milk production of between 20-40% in affected regions. In addition, 2 million hectares of the province's 12 million hectares of agricultural land were under water as of 23 May. The Argentine Secretariat of Agriculture reported that 200,000 hectares of crops, 400,000 tonnes of soybeans and 200,000 tonnes of corn and sorghum were lost. However, a recent USDA report anticipates record soybean production given that the flooded area was not a primary growing region for that crop. While flood waters were receding during May, there were continuing health concerns given the flood's effects on water quality. Poor sanitation conditions contributed to 117 cases of hepatitis and 91 confirmed cases of leptospirosis. ProMED-Port, ProMED-Port, IFRC, IFRC

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), and the Power Marketing Association PMA.

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