Drought takes hold in Southern Africa

The discontinuous and irregular rains that have fallen over Southern Africa since October last year have induced the onset of severe moisture stress and created “unfavourable” conditions for the continuation of crop farming.

In its latest Weather Hazards Bulletin for the period 12 January to 18 January, the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWSNET) said that rains remained erratic across the region except for Madagascar, parts of northern Mozambique and southern Tanzania that were hit by Cyclone Ava.

“Throughout many anomalously dry regions of Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Lesotho, rainfall was poorly distributed and much less in quantity. Many areas in southern Angola and northern Namibia received little to no rainfall during the last week, following a period in late December when precipitation was heavy.

“Since early October, the performance of the Southern African monsoon has been uncharacteristically erratic and poorly distributed, leading to both short-term and long-term moisture deficits throughout many regions and countries,” FEWSNET said.

The group said its month-by-month analysis of satellite estimates of precipitation anomalies over Southern Africa showed that to date, seasonal rains have been discontinuous and irregular.

“A combination of delayed onsets and early season dry spells, combined with abnormally high temperatures, have resulted in unfavourable conditions for ongoing cropping activities. During the months of October and November, many portions of Angola, Namibia, Botswana, South Africa and Madagascar experienced a delayed start of the monsoon, which led to strong early season moisture deficits,” reads part of the analysis.

In south-western Africa, well distributed, but lesser weekly rainfall amounts were received across the southern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo, northern Angola and northern Zambia in the first and second weeks of January.
According to the overall regional rainfall analysis, widespread abnormal dryness has prevailed over Southern Africa with most areas receiving 25% to 80% of their normal rainfall accumulation during this period.

However, wet conditions are expected to remain across northern Mozambique, eastern Madagascar and southern Tanzania due to heavy rains of up to 200 mm over the past 2 weeks.

Very little or no rains are expected relieve the dry spell or high temperatures concentrated over south-eastern Africa, although heavy rains are forecast for some areas north of the Zambezi River.

Also read:
Early season moisture stress worsens across East and Southern Africa
Drought persists over parts of East and Southern Africa
Moisture deficit threatens early crops across Africa
Food security outlook deteriorates in Southern Africa

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