Dark clouds are gathering on the horizon as forecasters predict 2015 could become the hottest year on record.The strongest ever El Niño heat waves were predicted to hit parts of Southern Africa towards the end of 2015 and lasting through to 2016.The 19th Southern African Regional Climate Outlook Forum (SARCOF-19), which met in late August in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo predicted that the region is expected to receive insufficient rainfall during the forthcoming agricultural season that runs from October 2015 to March 2016.This climate outlook for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is not a favourable one as the region is already facing numerous challenges.
This comes at a time when the Kariba Dam between Zambia and Zimbabwe is experiencing declining water levels, as water coming out through the turbines is more than inflows into the dam.
Water levels in Lake Kariba have dropped to 41 percent compared with 80 percent this time last year.With expected low rainfall, it is likely to take longer for water levels to be at optimal. As a result, the Zambezi River Authority, which manages the dam on behalf of Zambia and Zimbabwe, has reduced water allocation for power generation at the dam by Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO) and Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA).
Zambia’s new Energy and Water Development Minister Dora Siliya in her facebook page announced that due to low water levels in the Zambezi and Kafue rivers load shedding hours have been increased from 8hours to up to 12 hours.She said the immediate solution was importation of power and that God will hear our prayers and it will rain very soon.
I was informed by ZESCO last night that the water levels in the Zambezi and Kafue rivers are so low that load management is being affected. In many instances the load shedding has increased from 8 to 10 or 12 hrs. I have ordered ZESCO to be more proactive in releasing information especially relating to the load management schedule. We need to have predictable power supply so we know when we will have power, for how long and when we will not have power.
Clearly the immediate solution is importation of power as we are doing already but also that God will hear our prayers and it will rain soon. …very soon.
The strong El Niño of 2015 has contributed to suppressed rainfall over northern East Africa and Central America and the Caribbean , significantly limiting agricultural and pastoral potential, and straining local livelihoods. With El Niño forecast to continue into the first quarter of 2016, suppressed rainfall is likely over many regions during the coming rainy seasons, including in Southern Africa, Central America, and the Caribbean.
As El Niño continues through the first quarter of 2016, the Horn of Africa, Southern Africa, and Central Asia, as well as several other regions, are likely to experience abnormal rainfall patterns. El Niño is associated with reduced October to April rainfall in Southern Africa, a region where maize supply is already well below the five-year average and acute food insecurity is already more severe than usual,
SADC Climate Service Centre Regional Coordinator Bradwell Garanganga said much of SADC is likely to receive normal to below-normal rainfall for the periods October to December 2015 and January to March 2016, adding that “a persistent strong El Niño is also favoured during the bulk of the rainfall season.”
The El Niño effect has been associated with previous drought periods in southern Africa. The phenomenon causes the sea temperature to rise significantly in the Pacific Ocean off South America, and the air becomes dry, affecting the rain-formation process.He noted that only the extreme northern part of SADC and parts of island countries of Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles are expected to receive normal to above-normal rains in the first and second part of the summer season.
“The bulk of the southern tier states of continental SADC is likely to receive normal to below-normal rainfall for the period October to December 2015 and January to March 2016,” Garanganga said in his climate outlook presentation.
He however, said since climate conditions constantly change, users should contact their national meteorological offices for latest interpretation of the outlook, finer details, updates and additional guidance.
With the impending extreme weather conditions, the SADC region should prepare for such natural phenomena.For example, farmers could plant crops that do not take long to mature, and the region should invest more infrastructure development including roads, irrigation and silos.
Improving the transport network and storage facilities will allow agricultural produce to be moved smoothly from one place with surplus to another needing additional food.
“We should invest more in irrigation, conserve dam water, and plant short season varieties,” SARCOF Principal Meteorologist Linear Gopo said.
Most economies in SADC are largely dependent on climate conditions, and any reduction or increase in rainfall often has a negative effect on socio-economic development.For example, Zimbabwe’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) dropped by three percent and eight percent after the 1983 and 1992 droughts respectively.
In South Africa, the 1992 drought induced a reduction of the agricultural GDP by about ZAR 1.2 billion and caused a 0.4 to 1.0 percent loss in economic growth.The same drought cost the Zambian government US$ 300 million and translated into a 39 percent drop in agricultural output and a 2.8 percent decline in the country’s GDP.
Source:Famine Early warning systems network(FEWS NET),Southern African News,FB