April 27, 2023: Climate change makes the catastrophic drought that has pushed millions into crisis 100 times more likely. Read on for more on how the current climate crisis has worsened things in East Africa.
The Horn of Africa has seen almost three years of some of the worst drought conditions in history. Since the group of nations forms a horn-shaped landmass over the peninsula, the north-eastern part of the African continent, which includes the nations of Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Somalia, is referred to as the Horn of Africa.
According to a report released on Thursday, climate change is to blame for the drought that has left 4.35 million people in the Horn of Africa in need of humanitarian assistance and is believed to have killed 43,000 people in Somalia last year.
Since October 2020, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia have experienced five unsuccessful rainy seasons in a row; aid organisations have called it "the worst drought in 40 years." Despite the fact that the causes of the drought are complicated, a group of international climate scientists with the World Weather Attribution (WWA) organisation discovered that growing greenhouse gas emissions increased the probability of it by at least 100 times.
According to Joyce Kimutai, a climate scientist from the Kenya Meteorological Department who collaborated with WWA to explain climate change's influence, "Climate change has made this drought exceptional." She and her team discovered that the interaction between low rainfall, evaporation, and transpiration "would not have led to drought at all" in a world that was 1.2 degrees cooler.
Scientists struggle to pinpoint climate change's role in global droughts, in contrast to high heat and intense rainfall.
The WWA team discovered that climate change has increased the likelihood of both the long showers of rain from March through May underdelivering by twice as much and the short rains from October through December being wetter.
However, a La Nina, an ocean phenomenon brought on by unusually cold water in the equatorial Pacific, has also occurred during the nearly 3-year drought, which is known to have contributed to East Africa's below-average short rains. In the end, this made up for the extra moisture that climate change added.
A warmer climate causes more water to evaporate from the soil and transpire from plants into the atmosphere, which also results in less rain falling on the Horn.
According to Kimutai, the main reason for the drought is the significant rise in evaporative demand brought on by the high temperatures. The area is finally getting rain, she continued, despite original projections of a sixth unsuccessful rainy season.
"It's really positive that we're seeing rainfall in the region at the moment," Kimutai added, "even though it will take much more rain to help farmers and pastoralists recover."