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18 August 2011

Africa Update #43: Excessive Rainfall Around Lake Chad Causes Flooding

Heavy rainfall slammed the greater Lake Chad area affecting Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Cameroon. Positive rainfall anomalies were reported from parts of every country from North Sudan to Senegal, though season long deficits and inconsistency remain overriding problems for Africa. A drier than normal mid-summer break in the rains along the Gulf of Guinea coast.

The heavy rainfall around Lake Chad has been a week-long event, which kicked off with flooding downpours across Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Cameroon on August 11th. As much as (and in some locations more than) 3 inches (75 mm) of rain fell that day. Since then no day has had such extreme totals, but additional heavy rain continued to hit the region. Week-long totals in the region range from 6 - 12 inches (150 - 300 mm) of precipitation. Flooding and damage to infrastructure in the region is likely significant, and there is certainly the risk of fatalities, damage to crops and the drowning of livestock.

From this epicenter, moderate to heavy rain stretches east and west, with high week-long totals out as far as Mali in the west and into the Darfur region of North Sudan in the east. Moderate rainfall has also helped to reduce deficits in Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea (Bissau and Conakry), Sierra Leone and Liberia. However, running along the coast from Cote d'Ivorie to Nigeria rainfall has dropped unusually low. Typically along this region during peak summer, precipitation eases somewhat, but it shouldn't even come close to shutting off. (For those that follow Central America, you can think of this as a Canicula-like phenomenon). This is unlikely to cause major problems, but it may add some complexity to already existing local precipitation problems.

The improved moisture, though beneficial for drinking water and pasture for livestock, may not be able to help long cycle crops in all areas. Farmers who have replanted using shorter cycle crops, however, will reap the benefits of these rains, especially if they continue for the remainder of the growing season.

Unseasonable, but light, rainfall pushing into eastern Kenya and southern Somalia is not expected to last long, nor will it in anyway ease the ongoing famine. Seasonal rainfall in Ethiopia and South Sudan remains near normal. In western Kenya and Uganda, unusually heavy may have caused some localized flooding.

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