An Evaluation of the 2015 “Belg” Rains in Ethiopia

Thursday, 21 April 2016
Plaza Grand Ballroom (The Condado Hilton Plaza)
Steven J. Fuhrman, NOAA/NWS/NCEP/CPC, College Park, MD

Handout (1.5 MB)

Climate Prediction Center (CPC)'s monitoring of short-term climate is an integral part of Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET) and their support to food security in developing countries, especially in Africa. The March-May or “Belg” rains in Ethiopia constitute the crucial cereal grain growing season for this part of the world and also impact pastoral activities. In 2015, the season failed to adequately perform. Major crop and livestock losses were felt throughout central and northeastern Ethiopia causing serious tangible impact to food security in the region. The CPC International Desks closely monitored the region to deliver timely hazards for FEWS NET to help inform local strategies for managing impacts.

The evolution of the 2015 “Belg” season began with large delays to the start of the rainy season and greatly suppressed precipitation during March-April. Satellite derived products including the African Rainfall Climatology V2 (ARC2) data and vegetation indices, reanalysis data, and other datasets are used to study the dynamics associated with the “Belg” rains. In many parts of the Oromia, Afar, and Somali provinces, the start of rains was delayed by 4 weeks or more. March-April ranked in the lowest 3% of the past 32 years, with less than 25% of normal rainfall observed during the period. Anomalous northerly low level winds were dominant over Ethiopia during this time. Rainfall then increased during May as a result of changes in dynamical conditions, moderating seasonal deficits. The increased rainfall during May resulted in moisture surpluses for the month. ARC2 rainfall ranged from 150% to more than 200% across north-central Ethiopia. An anomalous southerly flow brought moisture from the Indian Ocean into Ethiopia during this period. However, relief was too late for the majority of crops and some livestock to which the damage had already been done. The influence of the NAO and an active MJO on the 2015 “Belg” rains is studied and presented.

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