Erratic rains puzzle weatherman and farmers

Kenyans will wait longer to know if the long rainy season will come as has been the norm.

With an abnormal rainfall pattern that began last year and has wreaked havoc, the future is unclear.

Kenyans are not sure what to expect in light of this phenomenon, which climate change experts say is not new but occurs rarely.

Giving hope

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It is this ‘confused rains’ that have left farmers at a loss on whether to start cultivating or wait.

And the government is not giving hope either as the weatherman reduces its predictions to weekly bulletins. Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) forecasts that the last week of January will experience heavy rains over several areas around the country - every day.

But even as weather experts interpret the confusing signs, Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNet) states the country will not be food stressed in the first few months of 2020 especially in rangeland areas that experience drought beginning of the year.

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“The replenishment of range land resources has reduced livestock trekking distances and driven migration to wet season grazing areas near homesteads, leading to better body conditions, milk productivity, and sale values. Rising goat prices are counterbalancing the impact of high food prices, and household purchasing power is gradually improving in most areas,” notes the network.

Last year, the long rains failed in what experts blamed on Cyclone Idai that hit some South African countries.

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The rains however came in torrents in the second half of the year in what scientists sought to link to the Indian Ocean Dipole.

Be patient  

The weatherman, however, insists it is too early to term this occurrence as climate change.

Dr Richard Muita, a climate change expert with KMD, says while it appears unusual that the rains have persisted through December into January, this is not the first time.

“We normally look at the expected outcome in February and then we look at historical occurrences, then we can give an informed forecast,” says Muita.

Dr Christopher Oludhe, a meteorologist and lecturer at the University of Nairobi, cautions that abrupt changes in weather patterns could be misleading.

He notes that when systems are disrupted, then it takes a bit of time for them to stabilise and this, he argues is what could have happened with the long rains of 2019 which failed.

Another expert, Steven King’uyu says forecasting is like looking at a bigger picture where you only see finer details as you move closer and urges Kenyans to be patient with them.

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