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Drought to worsen as 'depressed rainfall' predicted from October

Festus Kipruto at Nyawa village in Elgeyo Marakwet County on July 7, 2021. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

The drought situation in parts of Kenya is expected to worsen, with the meteorological department predicting La Niña from October.

In a report, Stella Aura, the director of Kenya Meteorological Department, said the climate outlook for the October-November-December (OND) 2021 short rains season indicates that most parts of the country are likely to experience depressed rainfall.

“This will be driven by near to below average Sea Surface Temperatures (SSTs) over the western Equatorial Indian Ocean (adjacent to the East African coastline), coupled with warmer than average SSTs over the eastern Equatorial Indian Ocean (adjacent to Australia).

“This constitutes a negative Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) that is not favourable for good rainfall over most of East Africa,” Aura said.

Most global climate and weather forecasting models predict that La Niña is likely to develop over the OND (October-November-December) season, Aura said. 

La Niña is a complex weather pattern that occurs every few years as a result of variations in ocean temperatures in the equatorial band of the Pacific Ocean.

The condition caused by a build-up of cooler-than-normal waters in the tropical Pacific.

The distribution of the rainfall in time and space, Aura said, is expected to be “generally poor over most areas, especially during the month of October and the peak month of November.”

The rainfall is further expected to reduce in most parts of the country in December as the season comes to an end.

“The temperature forecast indicates that warmer than average temperatures are likely over most parts of the country during the season.

“There are also enhanced probabilities for warmer than average temperatures in Eastern Kenya,” Aura said.

While several parts of the country are to experience generally sunny and dry weather conditions in September, the Lake Victoria Basin, the highlands west of the Rift Valley and central Rift Valley are likely to experience near average rainfall.

Occasional light morning showers are expected along the coastal strip while the highlands east of the Rift Valley (including Nairobi County) are likely to experience occasional afternoon showers as well as cloudy conditions in the mornings, especially at the beginning of the month.

Sunny and dry conditions are, however, likely to prevail over the north eastern, south eastern and coastal regions throughout the month.

Important rainfall season

The short rains constitute an important rainfall season, especially in the central and south-eastern regions of the country, Aura said.

During the period, it is expected that most parts of the country will experience below-average rainfall that will be poorly distributed.

Despite the expected depressed rains, isolated incidences of storms that could cause flash floods are still likely to occur.

The forecasts show that the prevailing drought over the northern and eastern parts of the country is likely to deteriorate and extend to other parts of the country.

“The forecast of depressed rainfall from October to December indicates a likelihood of drought conditions that may worsen as the period progresses over most of the arid and semi-arid regions of northern and eastern Kenya,” Aura said.

She added: “The food security and nutrition situation in most parts of the arid and semi-arid (ASALs) areas in the northern and eastern parts of Kenya are likely to deteriorate.

“Late onsets, poor distribution and reduced amounts of rainfall is likely to negatively affect agricultural production, especially in areas that have been mentioned above, particularly in the Eastern sector where reliance on the short rains is high.”

The forecast warned that cases of deforestation and vegetation degradation are expected to increase as people look for alternative livelihoods such as charcoal burning due to drought. Human-wildlife and inter-community conflicts over the limited resources are also likely to escalate in ASAL counties, where cases of malnutrition and food shortage are expected to increase.

In western Kenya, lightning strikes are highly likely, especially in Kisii, Kisumu, Nandi, Kakamega and Bungoma counties.

The flash floods may lead to the destruction of transport systems, especially infrastructure in low-lying areas of western Kenya and Tana River Basin.


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