In 2011, East Africa faced a tragic food crisis that led to famine conditions in parts of Somalia and severe food shortages in parts of Ethiopia and Somalia. While many nonclimatic factors contributed to this crisis (high global food prices, political instability, and chronic poverty, among others) failed rains in both the boreal winter of 2010/11 and the boreal spring of 2011 played a critical role. The back-to-back failures of these rains, which were linked to the dominant La Niña climate and warm SSTs in the central and southeastern Indian Ocean, were particularly problematic since they followed poor rainfall during the spring and summer of 2008 and 2009. In fact, in parts of East Africa, in recent years, there has been a substantial increase in the number of below-normal rainy seasons, which may be related to the warming of the western Pacific and Indian Oceans (for more details, see Funk et al. 2008; Williams and Funk 2011; Williams et al. 2011; Lyon and DeWitt 2012). The basic argument of this work is that recent warming in the Indian–Pacific warm pool (IPWP) enhances the export of geopotential height energy from the warm pool, which tends to produce subsidence across eastern Africa and reduce onshore moisture transports. The general pattern of this disruption has been supported by canonical correlation analyzes and numerical experiments with the Community Atmosphere Model (Funk et al. 2008), diagnostic evaluations of reanalysis data (Williams and Funk 2011; Williams et al. 2011), and SST-driven experiments with ECHAM4.5, ECHAM5, and the Community Climate Model version 3 (CCM3.6) (Lyon and DeWitt 2012).
Additional publication details
Exceptional warming in the Western Pacific-Indian Ocean warm pool has contributed to more frequent droughts in eastern Africa
Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society
American Meteorological Society
Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center