24 May 2024, 10:55

El Nino not responsible for East Africa floods: scientists

NAIROBI, May 24, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - The El Nino weather pattern did not have
"any influence" on widespread flooding that killed hundreds in East Africa
this year, an expert group of scientists said Friday.

Torrential rainfall in Kenya, Tanzania and neighbouring nations killed more
than 500 people, displacing hundreds of thousands as the deluge swept away
homes and swamped roads during the March to May monsoon season.

The region was hit by floods late last year as well, with researchers saying
that the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) -- a climate system defined by the
difference in sea surface temperature between western and eastern areas of
the ocean -- contributed to the heavy rainfall.

This year's rains were believed to have been exacerbated by El Nino -- a
climate phenomenon typically associated with increased heat that leads to
drought in some parts of the world and heavy downpours elsewhere.

But a study published by the World Weather Attribution (WWA) group on Friday
found that "researchers did not find any evidence that El Nino or the Indian
Ocean Dipole had any influence" on this year's extreme rainfall.

The network of scientists has developed peer-reviewed methods for quickly
establishing the potential role of global warming in specific extreme weather

Scientists examined weather data and climate models to compare how rainfall
patterns have changed between now and the pre-industrial era as they sought
to measure the impact of climate change on the monsoon.

"The extreme rainfall that led to destructive floods in Kenya, Tanzania and
other parts of East Africa is becoming more intense, with climate change as
one of the drivers," researchers said.

"The best estimate is that climate change made the event twice as likely and
five percent more intense," they said, adding a caveat that the findings also
had to take "a large mathematical uncertainty" into account.

The study covered the "maximum 30-day rainfall" during this year's monsoon
season, with researchers pointing out that "heavy rainfall will continue to
increase in the region with further warming."

- Improve infrastructure -

The study urged governments in the region to improve infrastructure and
protect ecosystems to save lives and help citizens cope with the heightened
risk of climate disasters, especially in densely populated urban areas.

East Africa and the Horn of Africa are among the regions most vulnerable to
climate change -- even though the continent's contribution to global carbon
emissions is a fraction of the total.

Over 300 people died in rains and floods in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia late
last year, just as the region was trying to recover from its worst drought in
four decades that left millions of people hungry.

A WWA study on last year's floods in East Africa called for the urgent
phasing out of fossil fuels and reduction of emissions globally.

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