Ministry dismisses expert’s prediction of El Niño drought

DRY … The Southern Africa Regional Climate Outlook Forum predicts that most of the continent’s southern parts will witness normal to below-normal rainfall in 2023/24. File photo

A South African weather expert has predicted an El Niño-induced drought for the grain-producing areas of Namibia, but this has been dismissed as unreliable information by a senior government official.

Johan van den Berg, an agricultural meteorologist for Sanlam, says the El Niño development is in progress and will be present for the rest of the season until about April 2024.

However, the executive director of works and transport, Julius Ngweda, has dismissed the prediction.

“That information is unreliable and not something one needs to pay attention to,” he said.

The Namibian Meteorological Services falls under the Ministry of Works and Transport.

According to Van der Berg’s report, produced at the end of last month, maximum temperatures will remain high to very high in the country.

“El Niño is in more than 70% correlated with below average rainfall in Namibia. It is unlikely that the Modoki version of El Niño would develop (warming of sea surface temperatures more towards the central Pacific during Modoki and a shift in rainfall patterns).

“Modoki is responsible for improved rainfall conditions in southern Africa, like in 2009/10,” the report says.

Van der Berg says there is reason for concern due to below average rainfall.

“Some advice for summer grain farmers is to ensure that soil water management is well taken care of. Weed control, the type of cultivation, and the planting date will be crucial this season.

“Try to convert production areas with poor soil water-holding capacity for crops suitable for grazing,” he says.

Van der Berg says some rain is possible in the Grootfontein-Otavi-Tsumeb maize triangle in the last part of November, but a very dry February and March is most likely to occur.

“Poor rainfall distribution over time is one of the main characteristics of an El Niño in southern Africa, with extended dry spells. Extreme hot conditions are possible for the midsummer.”

According to africareport.com, previous impacts of El Niño were seen in 1982, 1983, 1997, 1998, and 2014 to 2015, which caused severe droughts, the death of livestock, crop losses, forest fires, and pest and disease outbreaks.

These events have heightened fears over El Niño’s abysmal repercussions.

According to the publication, different parts of the continent face food security threats due to the ongoing El Niño weather patterns, which may cause exceptional conditions in the Horn of Africa and southern Africa.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network projects that El Niño would contribute to high food assistance needs throughout 2024.

El Niño is the warm phase of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, and is defined by warmer than average sea surface temperatures in the central-eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean and related atmospheric changes.

The events occur irregularly, typically two to four times per decade.

The Southern Africa Regional Climate Outlook Forum, which convened in Mauritius on 28 September, predicts that most parts of the continent’s southern parts will witness normal to below-normal rainfall in 2023/24.

The report says areas likely to get normal to below-normal rains include the western parts of Angola, north-eastern Zambia, northern Malawi, much of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the southern parts of Tanzania, the south-western fringes of Namibia, south-western South Africa, the southern parts of Zimbabwe, eastern Botswana, Eswatini and southern Mozambique.
– email: matthew@namibian.com.na

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