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IRI Climate Digest   June 2005

Climate Impacts - May

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

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Asia - Georgia  A series of floods caused by snow melt and heavy rains (Mar-May 2005 Precipitation Anomaly) during April, May, and early June 2005 has caused damage to infrastructure and property in many areas of Georgia (Reference Map; DFO). The districts of Lentekhi, Tsageri, and Mesti in western Georgia, and Tianeti, Dusheti, and Telavi in eastern Georgia have been the most affected. According to ITAR-TASS, over 50 road bridges have been destroyed, and 300 kilometers of roads have been damaged. 350 houses and other buildings have been destroyed, and 2000 houses have been damaged. According to the government of Georgia, several thousand hectares of agricultural land were flooded, and about 2000 head of cattle and poultry were killed. The government has allocated about US$22 million to help restore infrastructure and houses and to compensate those who have been made homeless.

Asia - China  Heavy rainfall over the course of a few days at the end of May (Precipitation Anomaly Map) and in early June caused damaging floods, landslides, and mudslides in the southern provinces of Hunan, Guangdong, Chongqing, Sichuan, and Guizhou (Reference Map, ReliefWeb Map, ReliefWeb Map). As of 9 June, 225 flooding-related deaths had been reported and dozens of people were still missing (AP). Nearly 138,000 houses were destroyed, 1.8 million hectares of farmland were damaged, and 200,000 to 300,000 people were evacuated from their homes (OCHA, IFRC). Estimates of the number of people affected ranged from 9.7 million to 17 million. The governmental Ministry of Civil Affairs has estimated the total damage at US$ 381.9 million. Disease has also become a concern; three people in Hunan province have reportedly died from typhoid in the wake of the floods (AFP).

This is the beginning of the monsoon rains in China (Climatological Precipitation Animation), and floods are a common occurrence during the summer months. According to media reports, 1000 to 1300 people were killed by summer flooding in 2004 (AP, Xinhua, also see Oct 2004 CID). Some of the provinces affected by this round of heavy rainfall have suffered from drought extending back to May 2004 (see April 2005 CID).

Europe - Bulgaria,Romania,Serbia  Flooding due to snowmelt and heavy rain has continued to affect Romania (May 2005 CID). The flooding, which has been referred to as the worst in 100 years, began in mid-April when the Barzava, Bega and Timis Rivers burst their banks. Nearly 7000 people were evacuated in that event. Since then, above-average amounts of precipitation have continued to fall (May Precipitation Percentiles Map) and thousands more people have been affected by flooding events across the country. As of the end of May, there had been nine deaths and 1000 homes were completely destroyed. In addition, more than 5500 houses and 76,000 hectares of agricultural land were severely affected in 28 counties (ICRC). Most of the damage that occurred during the first half of May was in the counties of Arad, Caras-Severin and Timis (ReliefWeb Map, OCHA). Bulgaria and Serbia also continued to experience flooding during May (AFP, OCHA).


Asia - India  Ahead of the onset of the southwest monsoon, above-normal temperatures during the last two-thirds of May and early June have caused at least 65 deaths, primarily among children and the elderly (AFP) in eastern peninsular India. Unofficial reports indicate a larger number of deaths. High temperatures in many cities spiked above 45°C in late May and early June, and daily mean temperatures were more than 5°C above normal (Temperature Time Series). The largest number of deaths occurred in the eastern state of Orissa; other deaths were reported in western Maharashtra and southern Andhra Pradesh (Reference Map). (AFP)

The latest IRI seasonal temperature forecast indicates a slightly-enhanced probability of above-normal temperatures for the southern half of India during the July-September 2005 season.

Water Resources

Africa - Cote d'Ivoire  Poor rainfall in 2004, a late start to the 2005 rainy season, and the effects of the civil war in Cote d'Ivoire are being blamed for water shortages in Korhogo in the northern part of the country. Precipitation in the region was below normal during the 2004 rainy season (Apr-Oct 2004 WASP Index Map), and the 2005 rainy season has reportedly been slow to start (May 2005 Precipitation Percentile). The reservoir that serves as the primary source of drinking water for Korhogo is now extremely low due to the lack of rainfall and proper maintenance as a result of the civil war (IRIN). UNICEF and ICRC have begun taking steps to supply water to the city.

The latest IRI seasonal precipitation forecast for July-September 2005 indicates a slightly-enhanced probability of below-normal precipitation for northern Cote d'Ivoire, where precipitation has been below normal for the past year (Latest 12-Month Predictions in Context Map).

Caribbean - Cuba  Beneficial rains fell during May and early June in eastern Cuba, which has been suffering from severe drought conditions (Feb 2005 CID). Climatologically, May and June comprise the first rainy season in eastern Cuba and are generally the wettest months of the year in that area (Climatological precipitation distribution). According to the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources, the province of Guantánamo recently had its wettest month in the past 10 years. Rains across the area allowed rapid cycle plants, such as sweet potatoes, maize and pumpkin, to be planted. The rains also partially filled reservoirs which had been at historically low levels. Despite these short-term benefits, overall agricultural interests and water resources are expected to continue to suffer from drought conditions in the near term. Approximately 700,000 people in the eastern provinces of Granma, Guantánamo, Holguín, Las Tunas and Santiago de Cuba are still dependent on water trucks. Another 1.1 million people in central and western Cuba are also receiving water via trucks and railroad. In addition to water distribution, the Cuban government has been encouraging light water consumption, providing materials for people to build reservoirs and catch basins and distributing free rice and bean rations. It is also working on a new pipeline between the Cuato River and Holguín city. (WFP, WFP)

Central and eastern Cuba generally have a second rainy season during July-September and August-October, respectively. The latest IRI forecast indicates a moderately-enhanced probability of above-normal precipitation for the upcoming July-September season.


Africa - Kenya  Long-term drought in the Turkana district of Kenya has greatly impacted livelihoods and food security, particularly for the pastoralist population. The Kenyan government declared a state of emergency in July 2004 and poor rainfall in the most affected areas since then, including the southern district of Kajiado (Mar 2004 CID), has only made the situation worse (Mar-Apr 2005 Precipitation Anomaly Map, FEWSNet). Seventy percent of the livestock have been lost in portions of Turkana, which is a great loss to pastoralists who depend on livestock for their livelihood as well as financial savings. The drought has also been blamed for an increase in violence to settle arguments over what little water and pasture resources remain in the area. Malnutrition has increased in the region as the pastoral livelihood structure has deteriorated. Up to 30 percent of the children in Turkana are malnourished and, according to the WFP, 2 million people across Kenya will need food aid through August. (IRIN)

Africa - Mozambique  Although national maize production in the latest harvest in Mozambique was ten percent above the most recent five-year average, poor households in sections of central and southern Mozambique affected by drought during the rainy season in southern Africa (Nov 2004-Apr 2005 WASP Index Map) are likely to face food shortages in the next two to three months, according to FEWS Net. In sections of Gaza and Inhambane provinces in southern Mozambique, maize production during the January-March harvest was as much as 48 percent to 57 percent below the five-year average. Poor subsistence households that suffered crop losses and have limited means for making additional income (IRIN) are at the greatest risk of food shortages in the coming months. Additionally, second season crops (harvested from June to September) may not be very productive due to a current lack of adequate soil moisture. The National Disaster Management Institute estimates that about 1 million people in southern Mozambique have been affected by the drought (AFP).

Africa - Djibouti,Eritrea  Several years of below-normal precipitation in Eritrea and Djibouti (CMAP monthly precipitation anomaly time series) have led to widespread food insecurity, very high rates of malnutrition, and the exhaustion of household assets (also see May 2005 CID). In Eritrea, households have increasingly been selling assets such as seeds and livestock in order to pay rising cereal prices and to meet their basic needs (FEWS Net). Malnutrition among pregnant women and lactating mothers stands above 40 percent, according to UNICEF (IRIN). Production from the 2004 cereal harvest was less than half of the 12-year average and met only 15 percent of the annual requirements of the population (Reuters). A current shortage of seeds (FAO reports a 5000-ton shortage) also threatens future harvests (WFP). About 2.2 to 2.3 million people in Eritrea will require 190,000 metric tons of food assistance between May and September 2005, but only about 1.2 to 1.3 million have been receiving even reduced rations due to a lack of funding for feeding operations.

The situation is similar in neighboring Djibouti, where rates of chronic and acute malnutrition are very high among women and children. Food insecurity in Djibouti has resulted from the effects of several consecutive seasons of below-normal precipitation, including widespread livestock deaths and large declines in milk production (IRIN). Appeals from several UN agencies to meet the food and health needs of people and their livestock remained severely underfunded as of early June (IRIN).

Although Djibouti and Eritrea received some rainfall from mid-April through May (April-May 2005 Estimated Precipitation) that temporarily benefited pasture and water supplies in rural areas, a lack of sufficient precipitation in the last two months has reportedly restricted the planting of long-cycle crops such as maize, sorghum, and millet, and has not helped preparations for the main June-September growing season (FEWS Net; Eritrea Crop Calendar). The recent rainfall has also prompted pastoralists to migrate to the region from neighboring areas to find pasture, which has placed more pressure on food availability.

The latest IRI seasonal precipitation forecast for July-September 2005 indicates a slightly-enhanced probability of above-normal rainfall for Djibouti.

Africa - Africa: Sahelian,Niger  Famine may be looming as the lean season gets underway in Niger, which was hard hit by drought and locusts last year (Apr 2005 CID). Nearly 15 percent of the average annual cereal production and 40 percent of the country's fodder were lost to the drought and locust infestation. Approximately 3.9 million people, or one-third of the population, are food insecure, with 2.5 million of the those affected in need of "life-saving support" (ReliefWeb Map). Malnutrition has increasingly become a symptom of the food insecurity in the region. About 20 percent of the children under 5 years of age in the districts in Tahoua and Maradi are either severely or moderately malnourished, and UN officials have indicated that 150,000 children may die if they do not get help soon. Feeding centers run by Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, MSF) have admitted more than 5000 children since the beginning of the year, which can be compared to 2200 children during the same period last year. (IRIN, IRIN) The Nigerien government has been selling basic food stuffs at controlled prices in the worst-hit areas and providing food loans, despite demands from protesters to provide free food aid. The government also withdrew a new tax on staple foods after protests from civil groups. Unfortunately, the international aid effort has had a poor response from donors; as of 7 June, only 20 percent of the UN appeal for USD 16 million had been received. (IRIN, IRIN, Kashar News)

Impacts from the 2004 drought and locust infestation are also affecting more localized areas outside of Niger. Across the Sahel, approximately 6 million people are facing food shortages, most of whom are in the northern areas of their respective countries. The increase in food prices is the primary driver behind the food insecurity, rather than food access, in most areas. Subsistence farmers have started to eat seeds that would otherwise be planted in June and to sell their livestock in order to keep up with the price of cereals, which has increased 40-100 percent during the past year. Cereal prices stabilized somewhat after rains arrived in May (May 2004 WASP). (IRIN, UN News Service)

The upcoming rainy season in the Sahel, which climatologically occurs during July-September, will be play a key role in the recovery of this region. The latest IRI forecast indicates a slightly- to moderately-enhanced probability of above-normal precipitation for this season.

Australia and New Zealand - Australia  Sydney has introduced its tightest restrictions on water usage in history as drought continues to affect agriculture and water resources in nearly half of Australia (May 2005 CID). Water restrictions were first imposed a year-and-a-half ago and have gradually increased since then. The Australian government announced an emergency aid package worth USD 191 million in late May meant to encourage farmers to stick out the drought and remain on their land. According to estimates, the drought has already cost tens of thousands of rural jobs and may cost the economy USD 3.07 billion this year. Predictions from the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics (ABARE) have indicated that overall winter crop production may fall 17 percent from the 2004-05 season, with New South Wales facing a possible 55 percent decline in production. The relatively dry and warm summer weather had an overall negative impact on grain crops such as sorghum, whose production was 6 percent less than last year, but helped the cotton crop to produce 70 percent more than the 2004-05 season. (BBC, AFP, ABARE)

Portions of eastern Australia received some beneficial rain during May, which allowed some farmers to sow winter crops (AFP). The most recent IRI seasonal forecast, however, indicates a slightly-enhanced probability of below-normal precipitation in portions of eastern Australia for the July-September period.

Europe - Portugal,Spain  The drought (September 2004-May 2005 WASP Index Map) that has been developing in Spain and Portugal since October 2004 (see May 2005 CID) has contributed to a number of wildfires, a strain on water resources, and declines in grain production. In the first five months of 2005, wildfires have destroyed nearly 10,000 hectares of forest in Portugal, an increase of about 63 percent from the same time last year (AFP). River and reservoir levels across Spain are about half as high as they were at the same time last year. Portugal is currently demanding compensation from Spain, claiming that water levels in the Douro River, which crosses from Spain into Portugal, are lower than the minimum level agreed to in a 1998 water agreement (Times Online, The Guardian). The Spanish ministry of agriculture expects declines in the wheat and barley crops of at least 29 percent and 25 percent, respectively, compared to last year (Reuters).

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