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Prolonged La Niña Likely to Worsen Drought in Horn of Africa


FILE - People stand next to the carcasses of dead sheep in the village of Hargududo, 80 kilometers from the city of Gode, Ethiopia, April 07, 2022.

Meteorologists predict the La Niña weather phenomenon is likely to persist into next year, prolonging devastating drought conditions in the Horn of Africa.

The World Meteorological Organization says La Niña, which started in 2020, will continue until at least August and might persist into 2023. La Niña refers to the large-scale cooling of ocean surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean.

WMO spokeswoman Clare Nullis said La Nina affects temperature and rainfall patterns in different parts of the world and exacerbates drought and flooding.

"So, the ongoing drought in the Horn of Africa and southern South America bear all the hallmarks of La Niña, as does the above average rainfall in South-East Asia and Australasia, as well as the predictions for an above average hurricane season in the Atlantic," she said.

The WMO said all naturally occurring climate events, such as La Niña, now take place in the context of human-induced climate change. Though La Niña has a cooling influence, temperatures are continuing to rise due to global warming.

That could spell bad news for the Horn of Africa, where millions of people are suffering from acute hunger due to four consecutive years of failed rains. Nullis noted the hoped-for rains once again have failed to come during the March to May rainy season in Somalia, parts of Kenya, and Ethiopia.

"And now there is a real risk that the October to December rainy season could fail," she said. "So, should these forecasts materialize, then obviously the humanitarian situation will become even more acute."

Last month, 14 meteorological and humanitarian agencies issued a joint alert. They warned that the extreme, widespread drought affecting Somalia, and parts of Kenya and Ethiopia could lead to mass starvation.

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