Drought in East Africa likely to Persist as Global Temperatures Continue to Rise

Drought in East Africa, NASA Earth Observatory

Drought in East Africa ©NASA Earth Observatory

A new study in Climate Dynamics finds that decreased rainfall in eastern Africa is linked to climate change. The warming of the Indian Ocean in recent decades has led to a decline in precipitation. With global temperatures continuing to rise, this trend of increased drought frequency will likely persist.  According to the U.S. Geological Survey’s press release, these findings differ from those published by the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007, which projected an increase in rainfall based on earlier published research.

This study has important implications for food security, water access, agricultural development and environmental conservation. Increased frequency of drought will risk food shortages for the approximately 17.5 million people living in the Greater Horn of Africa—Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia. 

Food security is a major issue.   According to the UN Food & Agriculture Organization (UN FAO) last month (Jan. 2011), food prices hit a record high. Among the causes are extreme weather events in Australia (floods) and Russia (heat wave) this past year. Extreme weather is projected to increase as the the planet warms because of  rising atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations (see Instability and Food Insecurity Linked to Climate Change, Says UN Official, WWF blog).

According to AlertNet (a free humanitarian news service associated with Reuters that covers crises), drought in Kenya also is increasing human-wildlife conflicts. Shrinking water resources are pushing wildlife to look elsewhere for water and causing communities to encroach on wildlife territories. Farmers are further exacerbating the problem by supporting crops through irrigation as precipitation diminishes.  The International Livestock Research Institute is expected to soon release a new survey linking human-wildlife conflict to climate change.

Coastal East Africa is one of WWF’s priority regions as it houses an enormous marine ecosystem, lush forests and a high concentration of threatened species.

Online Resources:

WWF Climate Change Blog:

WWF US > Where we Work > Coastal East Africa

WWF International > Where we Work > East African Coast

Share this