Experts predict a rainfall surplus in the Greater Horn of Africa

Experts predict a rainfall surplus in the Greater Horn of Africa

By Mekonnen Teshome 

Rainfall surplus is expected to dominate over the Greater Horn of Africa region in the March-May 2024 season, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC) has said.

ICPAC, the climate centre accredited by the World Meteorological Organization, provides climate services to 11 East African countries.

According to the Centre, the rainfall surplus will likely dictate the weather conditions, especially over Southern Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Burundi, and Tanzania. Considering this seasonal forecast, the centre is now calling for strengthened emergency preparedness and anticipatory actions.

This was announced at the 66th Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum (GHACOF 66) of ICPAC for the March to May 2024 season held in Kampala under the theme “Early Warning for Anticipatory Action” in March.

Presenting the regional season’s weather forecast, Dr. Hussen Seid Endris, a Climate Modeling Expert and a researcher at ICPAC, indicated that the temperature is expected to be warmer than average all over the region, with enhanced probabilities shown over the northern parts of the region.


“Delayed onset is indicated over localized areas in Central Kenya as well as parts of southern and north-western Ethiopia,” Dr. Hussen said.

He added that wetter than usual conditions are expected in most parts of the Greater Horn of Africa. In comparison, drier conditions are predicted over parts of eastern Tanzania and localized areas in western South Sudan.

Dr Hussein Edris
Presenting the regional season’s weather forecast, Dr. Hussen Seid Endris

An official from Met Office, UK, Dr. Stefan Lines, also gave an overview of the worldwide weather forecast at the Eastern Africa forum. The Meteorological Office abbreviated as the Met Office, is the United Kingdom’s national weather service.

Dr. Stefan underlined the atmospheric processes, such as the Madden-Julian Oscillations (MJO), the weather dynamics happening on water bodies, that can bring significantly enhanced rainfall on shorter (monthly) timescales.

“It can bring record-breaking rainfall in seasons forecast to have even drier than normal conditions,” Dr. Stefan asserted.

For this reason, we must stay up-to-date with the latest forecasts from our National Meteorological Agency and Regional Body (ICPAC), which will keep track of the MJO, allowing people to respond accordingly, he added.

Dr. Stefan pointed out that no two long rains seasons are the same – they will vary in rainfall total, intensity, and location.

“For some seasons in East Africa (such as the Northern Monsoon in June to September, and the Short Rains in October to December, the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) play a large role in seasonal rainfall variability from year to year,” he further explained.

Dr. Stefan Lines (Met Office, UK)

El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is the warming of the ocean surface, or above-average sea surface temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific Ocean while the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is the difference in sea surface temperature between two areas or poles, hence a dipole.

According to him, the long rains is traditionally very difficult to forecast accurately on seasonal timescales; ICPAC’s forecasting methodology looks beyond just ENSO and the IOD and uses the most powerful seasonal forecasting models to predict the season ahead.

Dr. Stefan said a significant challenge is that there is no known influence on rainfall from these ENSO or the IOD for the long rains. So, although it’s likely ENSO will persist into the long rains, it is unlikely to affect conditions, Dr. Stefan told the African Demystifier.

“Record-breaking global temperatures were observed in 2023, and temperatures are likely to be similar or even exceed this in 2024,” he said.

This warmth is due to human-induced climate change and the intense El Nino event, which peaked in December; El Nino events release a significant amount of heat into the atmosphere, Dr. Stefan concluded.

Dr. Asaminew Teshome, a weather forecast expert at the Ethiopian Meteorology Institute, on his part, says that the Ethiopian “Belg Season,” which runs from February to May, is also the primary rainy season for South and South-eastern Ethiopia and the second rainy season for North East, East, Central and Southern portions of the country, will be characterized by highly variable and less predictable due to its erratic rainfall nature.

Above-normal rainfall is to dominate over the “Belg 2024” season in Ethiopia, and above-normal to slightly near-normal temperature is also expected over most parts of the country, Dr. Asaminew corroborates the regional forecast.

The Ethiopian national “Impact Outlook of Belg 2024 on Sectoral Plan and Activities”, jointly issued by the Ministry of Agriculture, Disaster Risk Management Commission, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Water and Energy has also suggested disaster preparedness activities as drought is expected in the northern part of the country in the “Belg” season. A Belg refers to the rainfall season that runs from February to May in Ethiopia

According to the sectoral outlook, the possible negative impacts of the extreme weather events of the season include floods in Southern and South Eastern, increased IDPs, the occurrence of pest and disease outbreaks, unexpected rainfall in some areas that disrupted harvesting and crop damage, favourable conditions for desert locusts in eastern, outbreaks of infectious diseases (malaria, cholera, Dengue) and malnutrition.

Therefore, it recommends possible measures to cope with the situation, including strengthening emergency preparedness and response plans that take seasonal forecasts into account, which also helps with prioritization and creating awareness in the health system and promotes effective implementation of interventions.

Mekonnen pic 3
Leaders of the forum, attending dignitaries and keynote speakers highlighted that GHACOF plays a critical role in providing consolidated weather and climatic predictions in the region for better preparedness and management of natural disasters

Moreover, enhancing surveillance in areas with a history of outbreaks of malaria and other climate-related diseases and timely deployment of health commodities in areas with geographical inaccessibility issues related to transportation, as well as monitoring and evaluation of co-design and co-production systems to maximize its benefits, would be vital, it added.

In his keynote address at the occasion, ICPAC Director Guleid Artan reiterated the need for Anticipatory Action and timely emergency preparedness to save the lives of citizens in the Greater Horn of Africa region and ensure shared prosperity.

He also called on all stakeholders to join in mainstreaming Climate Services to bring Sustainable Development to the entire region.

The United Nations reported that El Niño-induced heavy rains and flooding (riverine and flash floods) heavily affected parts of the Eastern African region, including Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda, leading to loss of lives, livelihoods, and displacement over the last couple of years.

About 5.2 million people were affected by the heavy rains and flooding only between September and mid-December 2023, with nearly two million people displaced in Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, Burundi, and Ethiopia. 

This story was produced with editorial support from InfoNile

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