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Horn of Africa food insecure due to drought

Photo credit: SciDevNet

Copyright: Paul Weinberg/Panos

 

Horn of Africa faces drier weather

“Even though [this particular region] is getting drier, there are lots of places in Eastern Africa that are climatically secure.” – Christopher Funk, US Agency for International Development

by Emma Brown

Speed read

  • Ancient climatic evidence indicates global warming will increase aridity
  • But other climate models predict region will see more rain
  • The region is among world’s most highly food insecure due to drought

The eastern Horn of Africa may be getting drier — not wetter as currentclimate change models predict, a study shows.

The study, published in Science Advances last week (9 October), shows that the region, which includes Djibouti, eastern Ethiopia and Somalia, faces increasing dryness as global temperatures rise. The finding raises serious concerns as the area is already one of the most food insecure and drought-prone regions in the world. In recent decades, decreasing rainfall during the ‘long rains’ season (March to May) has wreaked havoc on the region’s agriculture.

But many models, including those used by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), predict that the region will become wetter overall. These models forecast that changing sea surface temperatures will disrupt tropical air circulation patterns over the Indian and Pacific oceans, causing more rainfall during the ‘short rains’ season (September to November).
In the new study, researchers investigate the region’s ancient weather patterns, and find that existing climate models may overestimate the future benefits of these increased ‘short rains’.

Lead author Jessica Tierney and her colleagues analysed sediments from the Gulf of Aden to build 2,000 years’ worth of data on aridity and sea surface temperatures.

Read the full article: SciDevNet

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.