Another El Nino drought is now 'likely', South Africa warns

31.03.2017

Another El Nino-related drought is now "likely" to hit South Africa this year, the country's government warned, threatening a rerun of the very dry weather seen in 2015 and early 2016.

The South African government dubbed the "recurrence of El Nino drought conditions likely".

"The next summer season has increased the likelihood for the development of El Nino conditions which are often associated with drought and water scarcity as seen recently in South Africa," the government said.

"The likelihood has increased from previous assessments and as we near the winter period, these forecasts improve in reliability," the government said.

South Africa's weather service and global forecasters have predicted that El Nino will form again in the southern hemisphere winter or spring, which falls between July and September.

Current crop safe… but next year's harvest in danger

"This could bring a dry spell across the country and negatively affect the crops," warned Wandile Sihlobo, at Agbiz.

"While it would be premature to provide any certainty on this outlook, it is worth noting that the Australian Bureau of Meteorology concurs with our local Weather Services and has noted a 50% chance of El Nino development later in 2017," Mr Sihlobo said.

But these effects will not arrive in time to threaten the corn crop being harvested now, and the current outlook is positive for winter wheat sowings.

Mr Sihlobo noted "a likelihood of above-normal rainfall for late autumn to mid-winter (June-July-August)".

"Overall, this will be beneficial for winter wheat growing areas," Mr Sihlobo said, adding that "the forecast rainfall will also improve the dam levels that are critically low".

Food shortage threat

The previous El Nino, which peaked in late 2015 and early 2016, brought widespread drought to southern Africa.

South Africa, usually a net corn exporter, was forced to turn to international markets, and remains an importer ahead of the harvest currently underway.

The effect in other countries in the region was even more intense, leaving millions in need of food aid.


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