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REPORT: The role of climate change and La Niña in the ongoing Somalia drought: A rapid analysis

Somalia is currently facing a quickly deteriorating food security situation, triggered by depressed rainfall in the context of high exposure and vulnerability of many people in the country, mainly related to decades of conflict and political upheaval. This analysis looks at the potential role of climate change, as well as the role of the recent La Niña, in the occurrence of the drought.

Key messages

  • Somalia has two rainy seasons: when the intertropical convergence zone passes north in spring and when it passes south again in autumn. In central and southern Somalia this is mainly in April-May and October-November, sometimes extended into December. Further north in the rains start earlier, in March and August.
  • Geographically, the northwestern part of Somalia, also known as Somaliland, has a somewhat different climate from the rest of the country. The World Weather Attribution therefore carried out two separate analyses, one for this northwestern region, hereafter referred to as Somaliland, and one for the rest of the country, hereafter referred to as Somalia (referring to Somalia except the northwestern part).
  • In this analysis, the team only consider meteorological drought, i.e., lack of rain, not the separate effect of temperature. In 2016 the spring rains were about 20 percent below normal in Somalia, but a bit above normal in Somaliland. The autumn rains failed in both areas, with about half the normal amount of rain in the second half of the year on average, much less in some regions. In Somaliland this was a very rare, once-a-century, event. In the rest of Somalia it was not as rare (1-in-10 to 30 years).
  • Two of the models show no trend, one a small increase in the likelihood of dry extremes. Taking all the evidence together we therefore conclude that the effect of climate change on dry extremes in Somalia and Somaliland in the autumn (Deyr) rains is small compared to natural variability. We cannot show that climate change influenced the probability of drought.
  • The strong La Niña that was active at the time increased the probability of a dry season and explains about one third of the precipitation deficit. This was not forecast well by current seasonal forecast models.

Read the full analysis here: The role of climate change and La Niña in the ongoing Somalia drought:  A rapid analysis

Image credit: REUTERS/Feisal Omar