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Weekly Updates: Africa | Asia | Latin America

03 December 2010

Africa Update #6

 I've been warning about the potential for flooding events in southern Africa this season, and it looks like we have the first event so far. Heavy rains were widespread across southern Africa over the last week, but Mozambique received the brunt of the downpour. A few scattered showers and thunderstorms may have brought slight relief to central portions of Ethiopia and Kenya, but seasonal precipitation totals remain very poor.

So it begins. Heavy rainfall pounded a large section of central Mozambique during the last 72 hours. There is no news out about it yet, but this is not uncommon in poorer countries. From what I have seen it can take up to a week before flooding events in rural Mozambique make its way into the news. For evidence of how slowly news travels, this press conference was occurring in Maputo as torrential rains fell 200 miles, or 320 km, away. When the news hits expect stories about washed out roads, damage to crops or seeds washed away, erosion, damaged or destroyed buildings, and drownings of both people and livestock.

Rainfall estimates hover around 3 inches, or 75 mm, of rain in 24 hours across central Mozambique. However heavier totals of up to 6 inches, or 150 mm, of rain have also been cited by some rainfall estimation techniques. One of the complicating factors is that for some areas this will be one of the first rains of the season. During the dry season the earth was baked hard by the sun, making it like cement. When heavy downpours hit that surface, with no prior gentle rain to soften the earth, very little water gets absorbed, and most of the water washes away- an event commonly known as a flood.

Elsewhere around southern Africa, Angola picked up on some much needed rainfall, as did northern Namibia. Light rains were observed this week in South Africa's Maize Triangle, but it is still quite early in the season there. January 1st is the critical cut off date for the arrival of consistent rainfall. Possible localized flooding in eastern Zimbabwe and in a couple of places in Zambia. Heavy rainfall across much of Botswana, but not the main growing areas of the southeast. Rainfall over the next week doesn't look like it will moderate, and there is the ongoing risk of additional flooding in the region.

Despite a few isolated showers and thunderstorms during the last week in Ethiopia and Kenya, there have been no large-scale changes to the overall pattern of rainfall suppression in the region. Continued dryness is expected over most of the region.

Cold temperatures are forecast during the next week for the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. Frosts and freezes are nearly certain in the higher elevations and possibly even at lower elevations. No snow accumulation is expected.

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