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11 March 2011

Africa Update #20

La Nina has not worked its charm on some parts of southern Africa as a large area of extended dryness threatens to destroy crops across several countries. Meanwhile flooding remains a serious issue across Madagascar, Namibia and Angola.
As heavy rains and flooding cover most of Madagascar and areas along the Namibia/Angola border, drought has taken hold of much of Mozambique, Zimbabwe, southern Malawi, eastern Botswana and northern South Africa. This sharply contradicts a typical La Nina during which heavy rains are typical across most of the region. So what happened?

As is rarely the case, the explanation is relatively simple. In early February a front pushed through the region, but became stuck across Madagascar and northern Mozambique. This is what has caused flooding in those areas. Behind the front was a ridge, that ridge has remained firmly in place for more than a month now, preventing rain from moving into the areas DevWeather is now classifying as a drought. The only way to get rid of such a ridge is another front that is strong enough to push the ridge out of the way. As of right now, it does not appear that such a front will move through the area during the next two weeks, leaving southern Africa stuck in this pattern. It is worth noting that the Maize Triangle (South Africa) is included in this area, however the Caprivi Strip (Namibia) has had a great growing season thus far. This region is the most drought prone area in southern Africa.

In East Africa, the preseasonal rains have been poor. This comes on the heels of one of the worst October-December rainy seasons in recent history. Drinking water is poor and the hunger seasons has been particularly harsh this year. That hunger season will not peak until the next crops are harvested, hopefully sometime between April and May. Rainfall, possibly heavy, is expected during the next week in Kenya, Ethiopia and Eritrea.

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