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25 November 2010

Africa Update #5

We remain locked in a stable pattern across all of Africa. Extremely dry weather remains in place over Eastern Africa, while the south continues to receive near normal rainfall as it braces for what is likely to be a soaking wet season. Western parts of the continent remain seasonably dry, while Morocco prepares for the first strong cold front of the season.

In Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya you can now confidently call the Deyr Rains a failure. Whatever light sprinkles arrive between now and the end of December are to be cherished. There will be no significant rainfall between now and the next rainy season. This isn't a difficult forecast to make. There have been two months of evidence that the usual relationship between  La Nina, the Indian Ocean Dipole and a dry October - December season is occurring. The outlook for the people living in this part of Africa is poor. Failed crops will lead to an extremely rough hunger season, food prices should increase sharply, water resources will become limited, and livestock will have little pasture to feed on. This is a full fledged drought.

In the south we continue to wait to see if the usual relationship between La Nina and a wet October - May season takes place. In a typical La Nina event the season will start off with normal or even with below-normal precipitation. We have seen the usual start, and are now waiting to see if the expected heavy rainfall and active tropical cyclone season arrives. The increase in moisture won't occur yet, but sometime in December or January it should arrive. Until then the season will appear average. Currently there are three different areas of below-average precipitation. Central South Africa, including the critical Maize Triangle, along the Namibia-Angola border (but not including the Caprivi Strip area), and an area centered on Malawi including, northern Mozambique, eastern Zambia, and much of Tanzania.

Morocco, which is currently slightly dry, will get its first strong cold front of the season. The moisture will help winter wheat crops in northern Africa. Little to no snow is expected in the Atlas Mountains as temperatures have not yet dropped enough even at the higher elevations.

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