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18 February 2011

Africa Update #17

Bingiza slammed into Madagascar this weekend causing significant flooding and damage to the northeastern portion of the island. Meanwhile on the mainland there has been a month of dry weather, in some areas. This may be putting crops at risk during a year when flooding should be more of a concern.

Heavy rain and high winds smashed into northeastern Madagascar this past week as the first cyclone to make landfall this year in the southern Indian Ocean. With La Nina in full swing, this may well not be the last. Numerous fatalities have been reported. The system did briefly emerge on the western side of the island, but never got far enough away from Madagascar to regain strength. The reason is, for nearly a month there has been a front stalled out over the Mozambique Channel. That front prevented Bangiza from moving any further westward, and also ripped the system apart.

That leads us to the other big event going on in southern Africa. The stalled front stretches inland from the Mozambique Channel to the interior of the continent. This has kept soaking wet and flooding conditions in Northern Mozambique and Tanzania, and very dry conditions in Zimbabwe, Botswana, southern Mozambique and northern South Africa. More recently the front shifted slightly north, bringing drier weather to much of Zambia, but that also allowed for more precipitation to shift further northward in South Africa. Although it is common to see fronts get stuck as they move through Mozambique, this is fairly extreme, especially in a La Nina year, where we would expect to see something move in behind the front to kick it out of Africa. This has yet to materialize and thus far most weather models see no change for the next seven days. What should have been a season of bumper crops may now be at risk of even managing an average crop.

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