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IRI Climate Digest   October 2001

Climate Impacts - September

Contributions to this page were made by IRI researchers
Dr. M. Barlow, M. Bell, Dr. M. Hopp, Dr. T Kestin,
Dr. B. Lyon, Dr. A. Seth, Dr. L. Zubair


West Africa Several countries in West Africa have experienced flooding in recent weeks as a result of abundant rainfall. Rivers in southwestern and eastern parts of Chad have flooded, affecting approximately 129,500 people. About 100 people are dead or missing, 10,500 houses have been damaged, and thousands of domesticated animals are missing (OCHA). Additionally, flooding along the Niger River and its tributaries has affected approximately 3500 people in Mali and about 220,000 people in eastern Guinea-Conakry (OCHA, OCHA). In Bamako, Mali, the Niger River reached its highest level since 1967. In Guinea, 9 people were reported killed in the flooding, and about 20,000 hectares of crops have been destroyed (OCHA). As of a 21 September report, about 40,000 people had been forced to leave their homes, and high water was restricting the distribution of aid (OCHA).

West Africa is currently nearing the end of its rainy season. The next significant rains should begin again sometime between April and June, depending upon latitude.

East Africa Below normal rainfall continues to affect several countries in East Africa. Continuing drought in northeast Kenya, Ethiopia and southern Sudan have led to malnutrition, displacement, stress on water resources, livestock deaths, and overgrazing. (FAS, IRIN, IRIN, IRIN)
Forecasts for the October to December period (IRI Net Assessment, GHA Consensus Forecast), which is an important rainy season in parts of this region, are indicating higher probability of below normal rainfall in the region.

Afghanistan The food crisis in Afghanistan continues to worsen dramatically (USAID), with relief efforts largely restricted as part of the response of the Taliban leadership to US-led military action. Food drops are being conducted in association with the military action but it is unclear what substantive effect this will have. For more detail, see the IRI update on the SW Asia drought.

Pakistan Pakistan faces a severe food and water crisis associated with the large influx of Afghan refugees (USAID). The situation is exacerbated by political tensions both within Pakistan and with its international relationships due to the ongoing US-led military intervention in Afghanistan.

Tajikistan Tajikistan faces severe food shortages, as the continuing drought conditions and the ongoing collapse of agricultural infrastructure exacerbate each other. (FAO)

China A second year of drier than average conditions during the rainy season in the North China Plain is causing concern for worsening water shortages and food security in the region. (JAWF, BBC, UNEP/GRID, AgJournal ) The region is entering its dry season with rains gradually increasing again next spring. The seasonal forecast suggests a greater likelihood of dryer than average conditions for the next several months in eastern China, south of the North China Plain. This could further stress water supplies for the entire region.

Taiwan The 2001 typhoon season has proven to be one of the most deadly on record with reports of over 300 fatalities in the past three months. Typhoon Lekima produced flooding and landslides in southern areas of the island nation in late September. Earlier in the month typhoon Nari produced record amounts of rainfall, as much as 800mm, in and around the capital city of Taipei as it struck eastern Taiwan . More than 23,000 hectatres (57,000 acres) were reportedly flooded by the torrential rains of Nari with more than 60 million USD dollars in damage reported as well as 80 fatalities. In July, typhoon Toraji resulted in numerous fatalities as it affected the eastern and central sections of the country. Reports indicate that Toraji alone resulted in over 170 million USD in damage. Taiwan typically has 3 to 4 typhoons per year. The season usually peaks from August to September with the number of storms declining sharply towards the start of the winter season. (Reuters, AP)


Vietnam Over 18,700 people have been infected with dengue fever this year in Vietnam, with 44 deaths, a 57% increase over the same period last year. This mosquito-borne disease is believed to have been exacerbated by high humidity caused by an extended hot spell in conjunction with seasonal rainfall, making for ideal mosquito breeding conditions. Source ProMED

Canada Five cattle died earlier this month in Saskatchewan from anthrax. Anthrax is a bacterial species that forms spores that may exist in soils for many years. Animals may be exposed if the soil is disturbed by flooding or drying or other activities. This region has experienced an excessively long dry summer causing sloughs to dry, revealing the bones of dead cattle. Cattle may graze in these sloughs exposing themselves to anthrax spores. Sources ProMED ProMED

United States The Bakersfield area of California is in the midst of a Valley Fever outbreak. Also known as coccidioidomycosis, this fungal disease, usually found in soils, affects the lungs. So far this year over 500 cases have been reported, surpassing last year's 300 cases by this time of the year. People generally contract Valley Fever by breathing in fungal spores, which grow during spring rains; summer winds transport the spores through the air. Experts believe that a monsoon-like summer rain could have contributed to the rise in case numbers. Source ProMED

Sudan Earlier massive flash floods in northern and eastern Sudan have displaced thousands of people. Water-borne and other diseases reported in the flooded areas include scabies, malaria, pneumonia, cough, rheumatism, and diarrhea. Source OCHA

Mali and Guinea-Conakry OCHA reports that there is currently a high risk from diseases such as cholera, yellow fever, paludism (malaria), and meningitis in areas that are still flooded. Heavy rains in recent weeks led to the flooding of the Niger River and its tributaries in eastern Guinea and parts of Mali (OCHA-1, OCHA-2).

Water Resources/Energy

Brazil The government has drafted a three-year plan worth nearly $13 billion to expand the country's generation capacity in order to avoid future energy shortages. Drought and years of poor management in the electricity sector have dried up water reservoirs at power stations across Brazil, which relies on hydroelectric power plants for over 90 percent of its energy generation. In June, the government was forced to impose tough electricity rationing, which covers most of the country, to cut electricity consumption by 20 percent to avoid crippling blackouts. Recently awards for consumers who cut energy consumption were expanded. Brazilians were urged not to drop their guard after the latest statistics showed consumers fell short of rationing targets in August. September is one of the driest months of the year. Officials hope the chance for more Brazilians to win discounts in their electricity bills will reverse the trend to turn appliances back on. (Reuters)
Energy rationing is expected to end in November, as the rains begin. The seasonal forecast suggests a slightly greater likelihood of wetter than average conditions, which might assist in replenishing reserviors.

United States In April of 2001 Lake Okeechobe dropped to its lowest level on record as much of central Florida was in the grips of the worst drought in 100 years. Numerous brush and grassfires were reported along with stresses to agriculture and water resources. Over the past 3 months, however, tropical storms or their remnants have been largely responsible for abundant rainfall which has helped to ease the drought conditions in most areas. In fact, officials from the South Florida Water Management District were recently quoted by the Miami Herald as indicating that the drought has been broken. The rainy season peaks in central Florida between June and September with lighter amounts throughout the remainder of the year. The IRI seasonal forecast for the period November 2001 to January 2002 indicates an enhanced probability of a return to below average rainfall for much of Florida. Other seasonal forecasts for Florida do not not suggest below average rainfall, however, and decision makers are encouraged to consult with their local meteorological agency for further details and information.


Central America Residents of Central America continue to suffer the effects of four months of drought. According to IFRC, about 700,000 people in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala "are facing a critical shortage of food." The WFP continues to appeal for emergency food donations until a possible second harvest in November, to help feed families who rely on subsistence crops. In some of the worst affected areas, people are suffering from malnutrition and other related health problems (CWS, WFP). The drought is the latest in a series of natural disasters in recent years which have seriously reduced agricultural production and stores of food (WFP).

The most recent October-December IRI precipitation forecast suggests a slightly enhanced probability of below-normal precipitation in northern Guatemala and a slightly enhanced probability of near-normal precipitation in Nicaragua and eastern Honduras. Although only a very small percentage of annual rainfall is received during boreal winter, in Guatemala, the IRI December-February forecast indicates a slightly enhanced probability of below-normal rainfall as well.

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), Church World Service (CWS), UN World Food Programme (WFP), International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Soceities (IFRC), 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, and the Power Marketing Association PMA.

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