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IRI Climate Digest   September 2004

Climate Impacts - August

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 - Thailand  Heavy monsoon rainfall during July and August (July 2004 precipitation anomaly) produced flooding along several rivers in northeastern (DFO map) and central Thailand for several weeks. The Chao Phraya, Chi, Noi, and Mun rivers were a few of those affected. Seven deaths in the Roi Et province in the northeast were attributed to the flooding, and over 27,000 people were made homeless in Ubon Ratchathani, where nearly 17,000 hectares of farmland were submerged. According to the director-general of the Thai Royal Irrigation Department, rainfall since January was nearing the record amount set in 1970, when massive flooding also occurred in Thailand. (DFO, The Nation (Thailand), Xinhua, VNA)

The latest IRI seasonal forecast indicates a slightly enhanced probability of below-normal precipitation in part of central Thailand during the October-December season.

Asia - Bangladesh,India,Nepal  Although peninsular India remained dry during the month, above-average monsoonal rainfall in early August brought flooding to northwestern India. Gujarat, Haryana, Maharashtra, Punjab, and Uttaranchal were among the affected provinces. There were 210 deaths reported in the region and approximately 100,000 people were displaced. In early August, heavy rains caused the Narmada River to overflow one of the largest dams in India by more than 13 feet (4.25m). Over 300,000 farmers were affected in Gujarat alone, which experienced its worst flooding in six years.

Though the situation in most of these areas has returned to normal, many other portions of South Asia are still feeling the effects of torrential monsoonal rains. Overall, damage estimates allude to a particularly destructive season across South Asia. As of early August, 1,972 deaths had been reported, which can be compared to the 1,500 lives lost last year due to drowning, mudslides, and waterborne diseases. In Bangladesh, approximately 9,000 people are ill from waterborne diseases following floods and landslides that caused an estimated US$7 billion in damage. Nearly 15% of its population will be in need of food aid for the next five months. Nepal has appealed for US$2.17 million in emergency aid to help 127,000 families. In India, the northeastern states of Assam and Bihar were the most severely affected by the monsoonal rains and slides. Over 900 people died and 33 million people have been affected in those two states alone. In addition to internal governmental support, many areas in the region have benefited from relief from organizations such as the IFRC, Oxfam, Salvation Army, WHO, and EFICOR. (IFRC, DFO, ABC News, CNN)


Africa - Chad  Western Chad is experiencing an outbreak of cholera, coinciding with the rainy season in that region. (Climatological precipitation animation) Cholera is generally caused by polluted drinking water and poor sanitation and commonly accompanies the rainy season in West Africa as wells become polluted. As of 2 September, 123 deaths and 2,895 cases had been reported since the beginning of the epidemic in mid-June. According to the World Health Organization, the outbreak began in Massaguet and then spread to the provinces of Kanem and Lac, as well as N'Djaména, the capital city of Chad and home of approximately 1 million residents. The last major outbreak in 2001 included 5244 cases. Officials expect the current outbreak to affect a similar number of people and have appealed for US$2.1 million to fund an action plan to address the problem. Some doctors have noted that they expect the epidemic to last until the seasonal rains stop in October. (IRIN, WHO, ProMED)

Africa - Guinea,Sierra Leone  Torrential rains contributed to an outbreak of cholera in Sierra Leone and Guinea, according to senior government officials. The outbreak started in Guinea after heavy rainfall in June and July and then spread to Sierra Leone. It is the first outbreak in five years in the region and, as of the end of August, included 894 cases and caused 86 deaths. In Guinea, most of the 333 cases have been reported in and near Conakry, while most of the 561 cases in Sierra Leone have been in the Freetown area. According to the Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the relatively high death rate of nearly 10% can be partly attibuted to the overcrowding in shanty towns, poor drainage, and the dependency on streams and pools of water for drinking water. (IRIN, ProMED, IRIN)

Water Resources

Asia - Pakistan  The Indus River System Authority (IRSA) has reported that Pakistan has entered a drought phase as two of its primary reservoirs now contain only 50% of the water they should for the upcoming winter sowing season (i.e., Rabi season). These same reservoirs at Tarbela and Mangla were also reported to be below normal in March 2004 after abnormally low precipitation accumulations during February. (CID March 2004) Poor rains during July and August exacerbated the ongoing dry conditions resulting from these spring deficits and long-term drought conditions in localized areas. The IRSA is expected to cut more than 40% of the irrigation water for wheat, but the dry conditions are expected to affect rainfed agriculture as well, which comprises approximately 20% of Pakistan's farmland. These areas receive a relatively small portion of their precipitation during the minor spring rainy season, with most of their annual precipitation occurring during the July-September monsoon season. Unless the situation is improved by significant winter rainfall, agricultural experts warn that wheat productivity may drop by 20-25%. The water shortages have also impacted rural poverty due to increased energy production costs. As hydropower generation has declined, more poor households in rural areas have increased their dependency on more expensive thermal power. Water experts are urging Pakistan's agricultural community to switch to modern irrigation and agricultural techniques, such as lining irrigation canals to decrease water wastage, in order to combat water shortages. (IRIN, IRIN)

The most recent IRI Seasonal Forecast indicates a slightly enhanced probability of above-normal precipitation in northern Pakistan during the upcoming October-December season, although October-December generally contributes a relatively small amount of precipitation to annual totals, based on climatology.


Africa - Somalia  In spite of beneficial rainfall in northern areas in July (estimated precipitation animation) that improved pasture conditions in some locations, over 600,000 people throughout Somalia are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance as a result of the prolonged drought conditions in the country. Four years of drought and overgrazing in northern Somalia has resulted in a severe loss of vegetation and extremely high death rates among livestock (up to 60 to 80 percent), which is threatening the livelihoods of about 120,000 pastoralists (IRIN, FSAU). Drought is also threatening agriculture and food security for about 480,000 people in sections of central and southern Somalia. Erratic rainfall during the March - May "Gu" rainfall season (CAMS-OPI precipitation anomaly) has contributed to maize and sorghum production (125,100 metric tons) in southern Somalia that is about 25 percent below the 1994 to 2003 average, and among the three poorest years since 1994 (FSAU). Food shortages and high malnutrition rates have prompted WFP to ask for US$14 million to fund food distributions. Approximately 7000 metric tons of food aid will be required through the end of 2004. (IRIN, IRIN, FEWS Net)

The latest IRI forecast indicates a slightly enhanced likelihood of below-normal precipitation during the October-December season in western Somalia, which coincides with the region's secondary Der rainy season (Somalia crop calendar).

Africa - Kenya  As reported in the August 2004 Climate Information Digest, WFP plans to direct 166,000 metric tons of food aid to about 1.8 million drought-affected people between August 2004 and January 2005, at a cost of about US$ 81 million (Aug 2004 CID). The majority of those requiring aid are in northern, eastern, and southeastern districts of the country (FEWS Net map). Much of coastal Kenya has experienced below-normal precipitation since the March-May 2003 rainy season. After the poor long rains of 2004 (Mar-May 2004 WASP), estimated maize output in Kenya has been revised downward to 1.71 million metric tons, which is about 20 percent below normal; bean production is expected to be only 50 percent of normal. In the drought-affected northern pastoral districts school attendance has declined in many areas as families have begun to migrate in search of water. Global acute malnutrition rates as high as 26 percent have been observed in Mandera in northeastern Kenya (FEWS Net, IRIN, FEWS Net)

Africa - Africa,Africa: West  Rainfall in the West African Sahel was sufficient once again in August (estimated precipitation animation) to maintain conditions favorable for the continued development of the ongoing desert locust outbreak, according to information released by the FAO Desert Locust Information Service in early September. According to the FAO, swarms continued to arrive from northwest Africa and lay eggs in Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso (reference map, 2 September FAO map). Hopper bands (groups of wingless, immature locusts) continued to form during August, and the first swarms of the summer in West Africa were forming in Mauritania. Swarms were expected to continue to form during September as well. The largest infestation in the region was in eastern and southern Mauritania, where hoppers had reportedly caused extensive damage to crops and pasture (FAO, IRIN). As of early September, it had been estimated that over 2 million hectares of land in the Sahel had been infested with locusts, and about 75 percent of this area was in Mauritania (IRIN). Representatives of CILSS (Inter-state Committee to Fight Drought in the Sahel) member countries met in Dakar in early September and concluded that a good grain harvest is likely in the Western Sahel this year if good precipitation continues through September, but that desert locusts could consume as much as 25 percent of the crop (IRIN). FAO has asked for US$ 100 million in international assistance for countries in the region to fight the locust outbreak, but only about US$ 37 million had been pledged as of early September (FAO).

Africa - Malawi  A recent FEWS Food Security Update for Malawi indicates that below-normal rainfall in early 2004 (Jan-Mar 2004 precipitation anomaly), particularly in southern Malawi, was a primary contributor to the poor harvest this year. Up to 83,500 metric tons of humanitarian food aid may be needed to meet food requirements in Malawi this year due to low production and a doubling of maize prices compared to normal at this point in the year. Maize production in the Shire Valley of southern Malawi was down as much as 35 percent. National maize production is estimated at 1.7 million metric tons, down 13 percent from 2002-2003. (IRIN, FEWS Net)

Asia - Afghanistan  At the beginning of September, the UN and the Government of Afghanistan made an emergency appeal for US$ 71.3 million to aid about 6.3 million people affected by long-term drought in Afghanistan. Poor precipitation this year, particularly during the February-April wet season (Feb-Apr 2004 WASP Index) has exacerbated drought conditions which have persisted with little respite for about six years. According to the authors of the joint appeal, the number of people in Afghanistan who are food insecure has increased from 3 million to about 6.3 million in the past year; shortages of food and water are widespread. Grain prices in southern and eastern Afghanistan have reportedly doubled in the past year, due in part to 70% crop losses in the worst affected areas, compared to last year. Approximately US$52 million of the emergency appeal will be used by the WFP to provide food relief to the most vulnerable people living in 14 provinces in northwestern, southern, southwestern and southeastern Afghanistan. Estimates indicate that as much as 80,000 metric tons of mixed food commodities will be distributed through May 2005. (IRIN, IRIN, IRIN, CID July 2004)

The most recent IRI Seasonal Forecast indicates a slightly enhanced probability of above-normal precipitation in northeastern Afghanistan during the upcoming October-December season, although October-December generally contributes a relatively small amount of precipitation to annual totals, based on climatology.

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