The worst El Niño ?

Photo credit: UN News Centre

Starting in 2011, drought-hit northern and eastern Kenya suffered especially from an already poor food security situation, exacerbated by high food and fuel prices. Credit: Jaspreet Kindra/IRIN


El Niño on track to be among worst ever, but world better prepared for fallout – UN

The current El Niño, a weather pattern of devastating droughts and catastrophic floods that can affect tens of millions of people around the globe, is expected to strengthen further by year’s end, on track to be one of the three strongest in 65 years, according to the latest update from the United Nations weather agency.

But the world is better prepared than ever to deal with the phenomenon, caused by the cyclical warming of the Equatorial Pacific Ocean, even though global warming has added a wild card to forecasting the severity of its impact, UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Secretary-General Michel Jarraud told a news conference in Geneva today.

“It’s not entirely clear how El Niño interacts with the changing climate,” he said, warning that it is playing out in uncharted territory due to global warming. “Even before the onset of El Niño, global average surface temperatures had reached new records. El Niño is turning up the heat even further.”

Based on advice from National Meteorological and Hydrological Services, the worst affected countries are already planning for the impact on agriculture, fisheries, water and health, and implementing disaster management campaigns to save lives and minimize economic damage and disruption, he added.

“Severe droughts and devastating flooding being experienced throughout the tropics and sub-tropical zones bear the hallmarks of this El Niño, which is the strongest for more than 15 years,” he said, noting that peak three-month average surface water temperatures in the east-central tropical Pacific Ocean will exceed 2 degrees Celsius above normal.

But, he stressed: “We are better prepared for this event than we have ever been in the past.”

Read the full article: UN News Centre 


Securing every hectare of land and rehabilitate all the degraded land

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Walking through desert in Nigeria. Photo: World Bank

On Day to Combat Desertification, UN urges action to protect ‘every hectare’ of arable land

Land is a renewable resource, but only if investments are made in land degradation neutrality, which has been proposed as an element of the post-2015 development agenda, today said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his message on the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought.

“We need to change course and start securing every hectare of land that can provide food or freshwater and rehabilitate all the degraded land that we can,” urged Mr. Ban, who assured that by doing so, the international community will be able to make rapid steps towards controlling climate change.

With No such thing as a free lunch: Investing in healthy soils as the theme, this year’s Day is intended to promote public awareness of the issues of desertification and drought, and the implementation of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in those countries experiencing serious drought and/or desertification, particularly in Africa.

“Our lives and civilizations depend on the land. Let us invest in healthy soils to secure our rights to food and freshwater,” Mr. Ban added.

When a plate of food is served in front of you, what comes to mind? Few of us actually think about it, but it is the endpoint of a long and complex process…Without the land, there is only an empty plate,” underscored Monique Barbut, who is the UNCCD Executive Secretary.

Noting that 70 per cent of the Earth’s grasslands, 50 per cent of the savannahs and 45 per cent of its temperate forests have been cleared to feed generations gone by, she expressed her deep concern that resources are treated like disposable goods.

“We degrade the land through unsustainable farming and walk away when it cannot produce anymore. Today, one third of previously fertile farmland lies abandoned. With a population of 9.6 billion expected by 2050, we will need to clear 3 million hectares of new land every year, on average,” she explained, warning that “we are heading towards a tipping point.”

“If we do not change how we use our land, we will have to convert an area the size of Norway into new farmland every year to meet future needs for food, freshwater, biofuels and urban growth,” underscored Mr. Ban.

Read the full article: UN News Centre

Droughts and floods

Photo credit: UN News Centre

Flood victims rush to a rescue boat of the Malawi Defence Force in Makalanga.

Photo: UNDP/Arjan van de Merwe

21st century ‘hottest’ on record as global warming continues, UN agency warns

Devastating weather patterns and increasing temperatures will last into the foreseeable future as global warming is expected to continue, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) confirmed today as it explained that 2014’s ranking as the “hottest year on record” is part of a larger climate trend.

“The overall warming trend is more important than the ranking of an individual year,” WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud clarified today in a press release. “Analysis of the datasets indicates that 2014 was nominally the warmest on record, although there is very little difference between the three hottest years.”

High sea temperatures, the UN agency has said, have contributed to exceptionally heavy rainfall and floods in many countries and extreme drought in others. Twelve major Atlantic storms battered the United Kingdom in early months of 2014, while floods devastated much of the Balkans throughout May. The monthly precipitation over the Pacific side of western Japan for August 2014, meanwhile, was 301 per cent above normal – the highest since area-averaged statistics began in 1946.

At the same time, crippling droughts have struck large swathes of the continental United States while Northeast China and parts of the Yellow River basin did not reach half of the summer average, causing severe drought.

The diverse climate impact which afflicted nations around the planet throughout 2014 were, in fact, consistent with the expectation of a changing climate, Mr. Jarraud continued.

Read the full article: UN News Centre

Drought response (IRIN News)

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Drought response requires getting development right

By Jaspreet Kindra

It takes more than weathermen and agriculture experts to design an effective drought response policy. Recognizing this, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) invited social scientists and economists to the 11-15 March High Level Meeting on National Drought Policy, at which ministers and other officials are expected to draw up a framework that countries can adapt and mould for their individual use.

The meeting has underscored the need for a multi-sectoral approach. Drought affects all of society, from agriculture to industry. Both villagers’ and urban residents’ electricity, water supply, income and food might depend on the amount of rainfall in their country.

Drought kills and displaces more people than cyclones, floods and earthquakes combined, making it the world’s most destructive natural hazard, according to WMO. As the world’s climate changes, drought intensity and frequency are expected to increase, said Michel Jarraud, the WMO secretary-general.


Integrated Drought Management Program Launched (EMWIS / SEMIDE)

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Responding to Drought – WMO-GWP Integrated Drought Management Program Launched

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and Global Water Partnership (GWP) have launched a joint Integrated Drought Management Programme (IDMP) on March 13, 2013, to improve monitoring and prevention of one of the world’s greatest natural hazards.

The programme was launched at the High-level Meeting on National Drought Policy (HMNDP) in Geneva, Switzerland, where decision-makers and scientists from around the world are discussing proactive, forward-looking national drought policies to replace the current piecemeal, reactive approach.

“Whether because of climate variability or climate change, droughts have a severe impact on water availability and quality, agricultural and energy production, and ecosystem health,” says GWP Executive Secretary Dr Ania Grobicki. “There is an urgent need to develop better drought monitoring and risk management systems, and for countries to have frameworks in place to manage drought risks through an integrated approach. This programme aims to support countries in this endeavor, within their regional contexts.”

“Without coordinated national drought policies, nations will continue to respond to drought in a reactive way. What we need are monitoring and early warning systems to deliver timely information to decision makers, effective impact assessment procedures, pro-active risk management measures, preparedness plans to increase coping capacities, and effective emergency response programmes to reduce the impacts of droughts. The Integrated Drought Management Programme is therefore an important initiative,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.

The new programme capitalizes on the ten years of success with the Associated Programme on Flood Management, a joint project of WMO, the Global Water Partnership, Japan, Switzerland and many other partners. It will focus especially on sharing scientific information, knowledge and best practices to advise policies and management approaches.


Drought Mitigation (Land-l.IISD)

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UNCCD, WMO Launch Global Campaign for Drought Mitigation

The UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) have launched a global campaign on drought preparedness and risk management. The Campaign was inaugurated on 13 March, during the High-Level Meeting on National Drought Policy (HLMNDP) in Geneva, Switzerland.

The global campaign aims to raise awareness among stakeholders and communities on actions they can take to increase resilience and avoid drought-related disasters. The launch event, titled “Practical Steps to Drought Preparedness and Risk Management,” kicked-off the UN Decade for Deserts and the Fight against Desertification 2010-2020 (UNDDD), the UN Decade on Biodiversity 2011-2020 and the 2013 World Day to Combat Desertification. The latter takes place annually on 17 June, with the theme for the 2013 celebration to be “Don’t let our future dry up.”


National Drought Policy Convenes (Land-l.IISD)

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High-Level Meeting on National Drought Policy Convenes

The High-Level Meeting on National Drought Policy (HLMNDP), organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), among other partners, is taking place from 11-15 March 2013 in Geneva, Switzerland. The HLMNDP brings together world leaders, government decision makers, development agencies, and leading scientists and researchers to discuss drought preparedness and management policies.

The HLMNDP, which opened Monday 11 March, is meant to encourage and help countries move from crisis management to disaster risk reduction. The opening session of the event was chaired by Nicholas Goche, Minister of Transport, Communication and Infrastructural Development, Zimbabwe and Chair of the African Ministerial Conference on Meteorology (AMCOMET), with remarks from high-level officials including: Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General, WMO; Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary, UNCCD; and José Graziano da Silva, Director-General, FAO.