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IRI Climate Digest   March 2005

Climate Impacts - February

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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Hazards/Threats

Asia - India,Pakistan  During February 2005 sections of northern Pakistan and neighboring areas of northern India received heavy rain and snowfall, and the province of Balochistan in southern Pakistan experienced heavy rains, which caused material damage and several hundred deaths (Feb 2005 Precipitation Percentile Map). According to OCHA, heavy rains and flooding in Balochistan caused extensive damage to infrastructure and highways, including the Mekran Coastal Highway (OCHA, ReliefWeb). In many cases, flooding was caused by the bursting of dams or by water releases to prevent dams from bursting. The failure of a dam near the coastal city of Pasni reportedly caused at least 80 deaths, left 1500 people missing, and damaged 40,000 acres of crops (IRIN, DFO, NASA). Throughout Balochistan, about 130 deaths have been reported since January (IRIN). However, in this area of Pakistan which has suffered from many years of drought, the heavy rains have also raised the water table and replenished irrigation reservoirs (IRIN).

In the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan, at least 360 deaths have been caused by flooding, landslides, avalanches, and other effects of heavy rain and snow during the month of February (OCHA). About 755,000 people there have been affected, and as of early March 100,000 people were still isolated by the snow. At least 8000 homes have been destroyed and 21,000 damaged. In Kashmir, nearly 1350 homes have collapsed, 2500 have been damaged, and 2000 people have been displaced (IRIN). In the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, 230 people were killed and over 20 were left missing due to snowfall and avalanches (OCHA).

South America - Colombia,Venezuela  At least two weeks of heavy rainfall in Colombia and Venezuela during February caused river flooding and landslides that resulted in the deaths of at least 80 people (UNHCR, DFO). In Venezuela the heavy rains first affected the northern and central coasts and then moved inland, affecting the Andean region. States of emergency were declared in the states of Aragua, Carabobo, Falcon, Merida, Miranda, Tachira, Vargas, Yaracuy, and Capital Federal. According to the Venezuelan Red Cross at least 37,000 people were affected, and about 18,000 people were living in temporary shelters as of mid-February (IFRC). In Colombia, at least 27,000 people were affected, primarily in the provinces of Santander and Norte de Santander in the northeast (ReliefWeb Map), which include part of the Andean Mountains. About 1200 homes were severely damaged and nearly 400 were destroyed. Many of the affected municipalities in Colombia were also affected by flooding in late 2004 (IFRC, February 2005 CID Report).

The climatological rainy season in northern Colombia and Venezuela runs from April to October (Climatological Precipitation Animation). The latest IRI seasonal precipitation forecast for the April-June 2005 season gives slightly to moderately enhanced probabilities of above-normal precipitation for Colombia and Venezuela, with the highest probabilities along the northeastern coast of Venezuela.

Water Resources

Asia - China  The province of Hainan continues to suffer the effects of drought (May-Oct 2004 6-Month WASP Index) which has plagued southern China since the beginning of the 2004 May-October rainy season (Monthly Precipitation Climatology; also see the December 2004 CID). According to AFP, 900,000 people are having difficulty accessing drinking water, and over half of the arable land (210,000 hectares) has been threatened, as have 194,000 livestock. Water storage in the major reservoirs in Hainan in early March stood at about 2.2 billion cubic meters, which is only about 31 percent of normal (AFP). Salt water has reportedly intruded about eight kilometers up the Wanquan River, making it difficult for about 26,700 rural residents along its banks to access drinking water. Drought mitigation and relief efforts have been launched in the province; in addition to ten million yuan in financial support provided in November 2004, an additional 8 million yuan was distributed in February (Xinhua, Xinhua).

The latest IRI seasonal precipitation forecast for the April-June 2005 season, which coincides with the very beginning of the rainy season in Hainan, indicates a slightly enhanced probability of below-normal precipitation.

Agriculture

Africa - South Africa  Agricultural interests in South Africa continue to experience negative impacts from drought conditions (January 2005 CID Report). As of 21 February, the South African government had made USD 22 million available for drought relief in the seven provinces that had been declared disaster areas by the President, including Western, Eastern and Northern Cape, Free State, Mpumalanga, North West and KwaZulu-Natal. The relief funds are to be used primarily by farmers for fodder and transportation. Western Cape, which includes some of the areas hardest hit by the drought, requested another USD 4.3 million for fodder and employment of farm workers. (IRIN)

Africa - Djibouti  Pastoralists in Djibouti are continuing to feel the impact of poor rainfall during the previous two rainy seasons (January 2005 CID Report). Both the March-April and June-September rains in 2004 were below normal, which allowed pasture conditions to deteriorate. Consequently, food deficits have been reported in the Southeast and Northwest Pastoral Zones. Increasing prices of food staples and decreasing income and food sources have combined to cause the food insecurity situation. Household food deficits of 5-10 percent have been reported in the Southeastern Roadside Sub-zone, where pastoralists rely primarily on income from milk sales. People have started to migrate to coastal areas, which do not have enough pasture to support the increasing population. Pastoralists from Ethiopia and Somalia, fleeing abnormally dry conditions in their own countries, have also migrated to the coastal areas of Djibouti, furthering the stress on the resources in that region. (FEWS Net, IRIN)

Africa - Mali  According to the early warning department of the government of Mali, over one million people in the country will require food aid in 2005 due to the effects of below-normal rainfall and locust infestations during 2004 (IRIN). Losses of cattle and cereal crops, including millet and sorghum, in over 100 districts, especially the districts of Mopti, Tombouctou, and Gao (reference map), have left people with low food stocks for the lean period before the next harvest, which starts in September. Mali has one rainy season per year, generally between June and September (Precipitation Climatology Animation). According to WFP, cattle in the affected districts have been dying, cereal prices have been rising quickly, and people have begun migrating southward. WFP and the government of Mali have launched an emergency assistance operation to provide 12,000 tons of food to those who have been most affected.

Africa - Somalia  The above-normal 2004 Deyr rains in Somalia, which were responsible for flooding along the Shabelle and Juba Valleys during October and November 2004 (December 2004 CID Report), greatly improved drought conditions in that area. (Oct-Dec 2004 Precipitation Anomaly Map) According to a recent FEWS Net report, the rains ended a drought in the Sool Plateau and the Nugaal Valley. While the above-normal rainfall has boosted the recovery of pasture and water resources in these pastoral areas, the livelihoods of those living in these areas will take years to fully recover. In the Shabelle and Juba Valleys, food security is expected to remain poor after the floods destroyed crops and underground granaries. Approximately 1,000,000 Somalis are in need of food aid due to the recent drought and flooding, as well as civil conflict and the 2004 tsunami. (FEWS Net)

Africa - Kenya  Below-normal precipitation in four consecutive rainy seasons has led to a food security emergency in the Kajiado district of southern Kenya, according to a recent FEWS Net report (FEWS Net). Kajiado is populated primarily by pastoralists (80% of the population) and agro-pastoralists (15%) who rely very heavily upon income from livestock production. The poor short rains during October-December 2004 (Precipitation Anomaly Map) resulted in the further degradation of pastures and an increase in livestock illness and mortality. Some pastoralists have reportedly been migrating as much as 50 km in search of food and pasture. Livestock prices have dropped substantially while cereal prices have increased, making food less affordable. The Kenya Food Security Steering Group (KFSSG) has recommended that relief and food aid be directed to 42 percent of the district's population.

Production from the 2004 short rains cereal crop (FAO Crop Calendar) is also expected to be below normal due to precipitation deficits during October-December 2004 in the Eastern, Central, and Coast provinces of Kenya. The 2004 long rains harvest was far below average as well, and total cereal production for 2004/05 in Kenya is estimated to be about 2.5 million tons, which is about 13 percent below the previous five-year average (FAO/GIEWS, NASA). By January 2005, WFP was directing food aid to about 2.2 million people in food insecure districts (FEWS Net).

The latest IRI seasonal precipitation forecast for April-June 2005 (the end of the long rains) indicates a slightly enhanced probability of below-normal precipitation for all of Kenya. According to FEWS Net, another poor long rainy season would result in an expansion of livestock mortality and "untenable" food security in Kajiado.

Africa - Africa: Southern  Officials in many Southern African countries are worried about a failed harvest after below-normal precipitation fell during February (IRIN, Feb 2005 1-Month WASP Map). According to FEWS Net, February rainfall was very important to the upcoming harvest. Many of the affected areas, including Botswana, southern and central Malawi, southern and central Mozambique, Swaziland, northern South Africa, southern Zambia and southern Zimbabwe, were also affected by poor rains during 2004 (Reference Map). The southern Mozambican provinces of Gaza, Inhambane and Maputo received sporadic rainfall during October-December 2004, which coincides with the planting season in that area (Precipitation Anomaly Map). The maize crop was hit particularly hard by the poor rainfall, but many other crops were also severely affected (IRIN). In Zambia, the government suspended the export of maize due to the expectation of a poor harvest. Assessment officials warn that the food security situation will need to be monitored across the region as the between-harvest season progresses (IRIN, IRIN).

The latest IRI seasonal precipitation forecast for April-June 2005, which includes the very end of the rainy season in Southern Africa, indicates a slightly enhanced probability of below-normal precipitation for Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Angola, Namibia, and northern sections of South Africa.

Australia and New Zealand - Australia  Heavy rain caused several rivers in southern Victoria, including the Maribyrnong, Yarra, Goulburn and Barwon Rivers, to overflow their banks in early February, causing approximately USD 200 million in damage. Melbourne experienced its largest rainfall on record when 120mm fell in 24 hours. The same low pressure system that brought the heavy precipitation was also responsible for record cold temperatures in the region (February Temperature Anomaly Map). Melbourne observed record cold on 2 February as the temperature dipped to 13C. The rain and cold have been blamed for the deaths of thousands of animals. More than 2000 cows and 10,000 sheep were lost in northern Victoria due to hypothermia and drowning. Many farmers in the region are looking for government aid because most of these losses were uninsured. (DFO, Melbourne/Yarra Leader, Weekly Times)

Europe - Portugal,Spain  Below-normal winter precipitation in southern Spain and Portugal is threatening crops. Climatologically, the region receives most of its precipitation during October-April (Climatological Precipitation Animation). According to the USDA, rainfall during November 2004-February 2005 was less than 25 percent of normal, which will have a large impact on the 2005-06 winter grain yields (Sep 2004-Feb 2005 WASP Map). Winter rainfall is the most important driver of winter yields on the Iberian Peninsula. Summer crops may also be affected because the water reserves that are used for irrigation during the spring and summer have not been adequately recharged. (USDA) The dry conditions in Portugal have extended the ongoing drought and been blamed for several wildfires in February and early March. (AFP)

North America - United States  The recent heavy rainfall that brought severe flooding and landslides to southern California is being blamed for large losses in the dairy industry (Feb 2004 CID Report). Estimates indicate that at least USD 38 million has been lost due to poor milk production, dead and sick animals and infrastructure damage. Many dairy farms have been covered in cold water and mud, causing many animals to die from exposure and exhaustion. Less milk is produced when cows have to expend a lot of energy moving through water and mud. There are 250 dairies in the southern Californian counties of San Bernardino and Riverside, and they are losing an average of one cow per day. This can be compared to a normal rainy season when each farmer loses about two cows per month to exhaustion and disease. The dairy industry in this region produced USD 760 million in revenue and 6 billion gallons of milk in 2004. (CNN)


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