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IRI Climate Digest   November 2003

Climate Impacts - October

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

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Asia - China  China's Shaanxi province continued to experience abundant rainfall during October (October CID Report). The rain and subsequent landslides and flooding caused more than 200,000 homes to collapse and damaged at least 520,000 homes. Most of the affected homes were hillside cave dwellings in the Wei River valley. Approximately 2.5 million people have been affected by the collapses and 23 people were reportedly killed. Unconfirmed reports indicate that 123 people have died or are missing in the Wei River valley since the heavy rains began in August. Recent flooding along the river was the worst the area had seen in 20 years and forced the evacuation of 300,000 people. The Ministry of Civil Affairs has promised US$7.3 millon for relief and local authorities have also allocated relief funds. According to government reports, severe rain and flooding has killed 1911 people and left 6.3 million people homeless during 2003. Rain and flooding impacts are expected to subside as much of China has reached the end of its climatological rainy season. (AFP, Xinhua)

Asia - Thailand,Vietnam  Heavy rains during most of October caused severe flooding in six provinces in Vietnam. The flood waters killed more than 100 people, affected another 630,000 people and caused an estimated US$17 million in damage to agriculture and infrastructure. Most of the agricultural losses were seen in the destruction of tens of thousands of hectares of crops and 25 tons of lost rice seed. Rainfall in some of the mountainous areas in the central, coastal province of Binh Dinh reached 1000 mm (40 in) where 15,000 people were left without food or clean drinking water. The provinces of Quang Tri, Thau Thien Hue, Quang Nam, Quang Ngai, and Phu Yen were also affected by the flooding. Water levels approached those seen in the 1999 floods, which caused 800 deaths. Flood preparation by the Vietnamese Red Cross has received some of the credit for the smaller death toll and damage assessment of this event. (OCHA, IFRC, OCHA, Government of Vietnam, ReliefWeb Map, OCHA)

At least 200,000 people were affected by monsoon-driven flooding in Thailand, which was the worst in living memory, according to the governor of Petchaburi Province. The premature opening of the Kaeng Krajan dam's spillways to avoid cracking contributed to the flooding. Some areas in Petchaburi Province received 200-300 mm (8-12 in) of rain. The rains badly flooded rice fields and villages, damaged pineapple plantations, and caused dams and reservoirs to overflow in Petchaburi and surrounding provinces. An estimated 22000 head of cattle and 225,000 rai (1 rai = 1600 square meters) farmland were lost. Asia's fourth-largest exporter of fruit felt the effects of the floods as their stock fell 2.3 percent after the suspension of operations at processing plants due to lack of fruit and labor. Governmental estimates indicate that damage in Petchaburi province may be as high as US$25 million. (CNN, Reuters, DFO)

Heavy rainfall is not uncommon in this region during October. Climatologically, Vietnam and southern Thailand receive most of their rainfall from the Asian monsoon during the June-November period. The latest IRI seasonal forecast indicates an enhanced probability of below-normal precipitation for much of southeastern Asia for the December 2003 to February 2004 season.

Central America - El Salvador  Heavy rains, brought on by lingering tropical systems during the first half of October, caused flooding and landslides in El Salvador. Affected areas include the Lempa River delta, the eastern department of La Union, the mountainous coastal departments Ahuachapan and Sonsonate, and the capital of San Salvador. According to the FAO, the 2003/04 first season cereal and bean crop harvest has begun in El Salvador, in addition to Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. While average to above-average outputs of maize is provisionally forecasted, WFP is monitoring the food security situation in El Salvador. (WFP, FAO, WFP)

Central America - Mexico  Mexico was hit by a series of hurricanes and tropical storms during August, September and October that brought heavy rains, flooding, and landslides to areas across the country. The winds and heavy rains of Hurricane Ignacio destroyed bridges, washed out roads, and forced 10,000 people to evaucate in La Paz, Baja California Sur in late August (ReliefWeb Map). The Baja California peninsula was hit again in late September by Hurricane Marty, which also affected the states of Sonora, Sinaloa, and Nayarit on Mexico's main Pacific Coast. Ten people were killed in Sonora and Baja California Sur. Much of the flooding caused by Marty occurred along the Rio Grande de Santiago. Ignacio and Marty caused an estimated 1 billion USD in damage and left at least 50,000 people homeless. (ReliefWeb Map)

Three separate tropical systems, Larry, Nora and Olaf, struck Mexico during a single week in early October. Tropical Storm Larry (NOAA Map) brought 230 mm (9 in) of rain to areas in the states of Chiapas, Veracruz, and Tabasco, causing flooding along the Sabinal, San Juan, and Usumacinta river systems. Tropical Storms Olaf (NOAA Map) and Nora (formerly Hurricane Nora) brought heavy rainfall to the central and southern portions of the Mexican Pacific coast and caused severe damage to crops, homes, and roads in the states of Guanajuanto, Jalisco, Nayarita, and Mexico. Approximately 50 people died and 600,000 people were affected in 12 Mexican states during late August to early October by storm activity in Mexico.

The Atlantic hurricane season begins 1 June and ends 30 November. Ninety-seven percent of Atlantic storms occur within this defined season and peak activity typically occurs during September. The Eastern North Pacific hurricane season begins 1 May and ends in early November, with a peak in late August or early September. There were 16 named storms in the Eastern North Pacific during the 2003 season, which is higher than the average during 1995-2002 (12.8) and on par with the average during 1966-1996 (16.4). (DPA, CRS, AFP, WFP, CRS, IFRC, ReliefWeb Map)

North America - Canada,United States  A series of sub-tropical systems brought above-average rainfall to northwestern Washington and southwestern British Columbia. Rainfall records were set across the region. Seattle received 90 mm (3.5 in) of rain in a single day. Portions of coastal British Columbia received 470 mm (18.5 in) of rain in a six-day period causing the worst flooding in British Columbia in a century. The rains flooded numerous rivers in the area including the Squamish, Skokomish, Nooksask, and Skagit Rivers. The Skagit River in Washington posed a particular threat to surrounding areas as it reached 7 feet above flood stage. Flood waters inundated low-lying areas and farmland, while heavy rains triggered mudslides. Four deaths were reported in addition to the US$190 million in damage and the displacement of 4000 people. (DFO, CNN, DFO, CNN)

North America - United States  In Southern California, the most damaging wildfires in the history of the state began as early as the 22nd of October and continued into the early days of November. Dry conditions resulting from several years of drought in the southwestern U.S. and strong Santa Ana winds have been blamed for the rapid growth and spread of the fires. In all, fifteen large fires burned about 750,000 acres, and 3640 homes, 33 commercial properties, and 1141 other structures were destroyed (NIFC). Twenty-two people were killed. According to initial estimates, two of the major wildfires were responsible for total insured property losses of about US $2.04 billion (ISO). Large tracts of drought-weakened trees that had been killed by bark beetle infestations provided substantial fuel for the fires, which occurred primarily in forested areas in the mountains ringing the metropolitan areas of Los Angeles and San Diego. A high pressure system persisted over the southern Rocky Mountains for several days in late October, inducing the warm and dry Santa Ana winds that rapidly increased the intensity and scope of the fires. (CNN, USDA, Reuters)

Climatologically, much of Southern California receives about 40 to 50 percent of its annual precipitation during the December to February season. The latest IRI seasonal forecast indicates a slightly enhanced probability of below-normal precipitation for the upcoming December 2003 to February 2004 season.

South America - Colombia  Heavy seasonal rains sparked flooding and landslides during the last half of October in Colombia. Approximately 72,000 people have been affected in the provinces of Norte de Santander, Cundinamarca, Valle del Cauca, Antioquia, Caldas, and Choco, many of whom were living in slum areas or displaced by violence. Sixteen deaths and "extensive damage" to agricultural land and facilities were also reported. (DFO, WFP, DPA, Goverment of Columbia) The latest IRI seasonal forecast for December 2003 to February 2004 indicates an enhanced likelihood of above-average rainfall in most of Colombia.


Asia - India  Heavy rains in the eastern Indian state of Bihar have resulted in waterborne diseases, including a diarrhea epidemic, that has claimed the lives of 9 people and left many more ill. More than 200 have died in the recent floods in Bihar. In Karnataka, southern India, there has been an increase in dengue cases this year, with nearly 1000 cases and 7 deaths; 197 cases were reported in the last month, likely due to the monsoon rains. (ProMED, ProMED)


Africa - Africa: North  Several FAO locust monitoring reports in October have documented the development of locust outbreaks in northern Mauritania, northern Mali, northern Niger, and northeastern Sudan, in areas where good rainfall and other conditions have been favorable for their development. As of 7 November, in the regions mentioned above, locusts were concentrating in areas with green vegetation. Some locusts had started moving into southern Morocco, southern Algeria, and southwestern Libya, and also into southeastern Libya, southern Egypt, and along the Red Sea in Sudan. In central Sudan, large locust swarms were associated with eleven asthma-related deaths and over 1600 hospitalizations (BBC). Control operations were underway in many of these areas, and the report warned that more rainfall in the regions into which the locusts have moved could prompt breeding and result in a dangerous situation during the winter. (BBC, IRIN, FAO)

Africa - Lesotho,Swaziland  The World Food Programme has warned that between 600,000 and 700,000 of the 2 million people of Lesotho will require food aid over the next several months. Lesotho is one of six countries in southern Africa which are targets of a current WFP appeal for food aid through the end of June 2004. Although Lesotho receives most of its precipitation during October-March, some vegetable crops and winter wheat are grown during the winter season, when the region can receive frontal precipitation. This winter, however, very little precipitation fell (May-October 2003 WASP Index), and the winter wheat and vegetable crops largely failed, particularly in the Lowlands and Foothills (OCHA). In spite of some light rains recorded in October (FEWS Net), dry conditions and low soil moisture have also reportedly delayed preparations for the upcoming rainy season, which could increase the chances that some late-planted crops could suffer from frosts in March and April (IRIN).

Continuing dry conditions have severely affected water resources and agriculture in Swaziland as well. The Central Bank of Swaziland reported that reduced river capacity in the country reduced hydroelectric production by 33.2 percent last year, just at the time when more electricity was needed for crop irrigation. The reservoir for the Maguga dam, completed about a year ago, on the Komati River, is reportedly at only 11.7 percent of capacity, and Majoli dam in northeastern Manzini was only at 20.4 percent of capacity. The dry weather has also been destructive to animal herds such as ostriches, impala, antelope, and buffalo in the Lubombo region, where the economy relies heavily on tourism. (IRIN).

The most recent IRI seasonal forecast indicates a slightly increased probability of below-normal precipitation for most of southern Africa (including Lesotho and Swaziland) for the upcoming December-February 2004 season.

Africa - Africa: Greater Horn  The June-September rainy season (CPC Jun-Sep percent of normal map) generally produced near- to above-normal rainfall in the primary crop-producing regions of Eritrea and Ethiopia, but some reports from WFP suggested that "a lack of consistent rainfall" at the end of the season in September would negatively affect the harvest in Gash Barka and Debub in Eritrea. According to FEWS, crop production in Ethiopia is predicted to increase by 14 to 18 percent from 2002/2003 to a value slightly below the 5-year average of 8.79 million metric tons. Still, a food shortfall of 2.3 million tons in Ethiopia is expected in 2004. If current chafer beetle infestations are controlled, preliminary estimates for Eritrea suggest that cereal output will quadruple from last year to a value exceeding 210,000 metric tons (FEWS). However, in a normal year Eritrea produces 450,000 metric tons, and the country will continue to require food aid in 2004. UNICEF has warned that malnutrition is increasing quickly among women and children in the food-producing regions of Gash Barka and Anseba in Eritrea as a result of the combined effects of drought, war, and poverty (IRIN). Late onset of the short rains (October-December) in parts of southern and eastern Ethiopia is reportedly causing water shortages for livestock in the region.

Four successive years of deficient rainfall in the pastoral Sool Plateau of Somalia have contributed to poor pasture conditions and led to an estimated 40 to 80 percent mortality rate among livestock in the region, according to the UN Food Security Assessment Unit for Somalia. Food security among pastoralists continues to decline, and an assessment led by UNDP and OCHA estimates that 234,000 to 616,000 people in Somalia will experience food shortages between November 2003 and June 2004 (FEWS). Poor families who were unable to migrate after the poor April-June rains were left to pay higher prices for water (UN) and were less able to pay for food (IRIN). The short rains (October-December climatology) have generally started about a month late in the Coast Province of Kenya (FEWS), where several years of drought have led to high crop failure rates. As many as 261,000 people in the region will require humanitarian aid between October and December 2003.

The latest IRI forecast for the southern Greater Horn region indicates a slightly enhanced probability of below-normal precipitation for the December 2003 to February 2004 season.

Australia and New Zealand - Australia  In an FAO report in October, Australian wheat output was forecast to reach 24 million tons, about 250 percent of last year's production, which was affected by the severe drought. Adequate winter rainfall in grain-producing areas (wheat, barley) and an increase in the area planted are being credited for the improved crop prospects. According to the report, although winter grain planting was delayed by the late arrival of rains, the acreage planted in grain increased 9 percent from last year, to 19.4 million hectares.

Europe - Ukraine  According to USDA/FAS, last year's harsh winter reduced wheat production to 4 million tons or one-fourth of the size of the previous year's crop. The decline in output moved Ukraine from the world's fifth-largest exporter of wheat to a net importer of 3 million tons.

North America - United States  Above-normal rainfall and below-normal temperatures along the East Coast of the United States during the spring and fall of this year damaged pumpkin crops from Florida to New York. Rains in May and June delayed planting in many areas until mid-June, almost a full month later than normal. Wet conditions persisted through the six-month-long growing season which deterred bees from pollinating as much as normal and allowed anomalous amounts of fungi to attach to the rinds and tissue of the fruit. In addition, insufficient sunlight during the growing season prevented many pumpkins from ripening in time for the autumn harvest. Some farmers lost 20-30 percent of their crop. (CNN)

Oceania - Solomon Islands  AFP recently reported that the residents of the island of Tikopia in the Solomon Islands are in desperate need of food relief after two tropical cyclones in the past year hit the island, destroying food crops each time. According to the director of the Solomon Islands National Disaster Management Office (NDMO), crops that were regrown after Tropical Cyclone Zoe (category 5, 155 knot maximum winds) hit the island in late December 2002 were damaged or destroyed by Tropical Cyclone Gina in early June 2003. The NDMO completed a food security assessment for Tikopia in September and made an appeal to donors for food aid. (AFP, OCHA, OCHA)

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