Poor Rains and You’re ‘Done’
When Gideon Galu, a Kenyan meteorologist with the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, or FewsNet, looks at 30 years of weather data, he doesn’t see doom for his country’s herders and farmers. He sees a need to radically, urgently adapt to the new normal: grow fodder for the lean times, build reservoirs to store water, switch to crops that do well in Kenya’s soil, and not just maize, the staple.
Rainfall is already erratic. Now, he says, it’s getting significantly drier and hotter. The forecast for the next rains aren’t good. “These people live on the edge,” he said. “Any tilt to the poor rains, and they’re done.”
His colleague at FewsNet, Chris Funk, a climatologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has linked recent drought to the long-term warming of the western Pacific Ocean as well as higher land temperatures in East Africa, both products of human-induced climate change. Global warming, he concluded, seems to produce more severe weather disruptions known as El Niños and La Niñas, leading to “protracted drought and food insecurity.”
Jessica Tierney, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Arizona, took the longer view. By analyzing marine sediments, she and her colleagues came to the conclusion that the region is drying faster now than at any time in two millenniums and that the trend may be linked to human activity. That rapid drying in the Horn of Africa, she wrote, is “synchronous with recent global and regional warming.”