Africa: Water deficits to shrink in the south, persist in the north

16 August 2019

THE BIG PICTURE
The 12-month forecast through April 2020 indicates intense water deficits across northern Africa and along the Red Sea. The southern half of the continent will see moderate deficits overall framed by more intense deficits in large pockets along the west coast, and widespread surpluses in Tanzania in the east.

Deficits will be exceptional in many northern areas including Egypt, eastern Libya, northern Mali, northern Niger, Eritrea, Djibouti, and northern Ethiopia.

Relatively normal water conditions are expected across the Sahel with a few pockets of surplus in central Mali. Surpluses are also forecast in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo, and around Ndjamena, Chad. Intense deficits are expected in southern Côte D’Ivoire.

Along the west coast from the Gulf of Guinea, severe to exceptional deficits are forecast in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Republic of the Congo, westernmost Democratic Republic of the Congo into northern Angola, southwest Angola into Namibia, southern Namibia, and Northern Cape, South Africa. Primarily moderate deficits are forecast elsewhere in southern Africa, though anomalies may be more intense in Botswana and Swaziland.

Moderate to extreme surpluses are forecast throughout Tanzania, trailing north into Uganda and south along Mozambique’s northern coast. Surpluses are also forecast for southeastern Madagascar and a pocket south of Durban, South Africa.

FORECAST BREAKDOWN
The 3-month maps (below) show the evolving conditions in greater detail.

The forecast through October indicates that deficits in Africa will shrink and downgrade considerably, particularly in the south. Deficits of varying intensity are forecast across the north, with intense anomalies in Algeria, northern Niger, southeast Libya, southwest Egypt, and northern Sudan. Deficits along the southwest bank of the Red Sea and in the Horn will nearly disappear, except in western Ethiopia where deficits will be severe. In the southern half of the continent, merely mild deficits are forecast overall. In Angola, however, a pocket of exceptional deficit will persist in the southwest. Surpluses will remain widespread across the center of Tanzania, reaching exceptional intensity in the west, though conditions of both surplus and deficit (purple/pink) are also indicated as transitions occur. Other areas with a forecast of surplus include Uganda, northern Mozambique, southern Madagascar, and pockets in South Africa south of Durban and west of Johannesburg. Some pockets of primarily moderate surplus are also expected around the Gulf of Guinea in eastern Ghana, southern Togo, eastern Burkina Faso, as well as around Ndjamena, Chad.

From November 2019 through January 2020, deficits will continue to shrink and downgrade, leaving nearly normal conditions in many parts of Africa. Some relatively small pockets of intense deficit are forecast in Western Sahara, Mauritania, and Senegal, and scattered pockets in southern Egypt, Sudan, and Somalia. A path of exceptional deficit will emerge in eastern Ethiopia. Intense surpluses will re-emerge in northern Egypt and near Benghazi, Libya. Surpluses will increase in Tanzania and nearby regions of Mozambique, Zambia, and Kenya, and in Malawi and Uganda, and will emerge along the White Nile in South Sudan.

During the final quarter – February through April 2020 – moderate deficits will emerge across northern and western Africa along with some areas of greater intensity. Widespread surpluses will persist in Tanzania.

(It should be noted that forecast skill declines with longer lead times.)

IMPACTS
[Updated 26 Aug 2019]
Drought, a cyclone, and hyperinflation have left 2.5 million people facing starvation in Zimbabwe. The World Food Programme cited this year’s El Niño phenomenon for drought during the rainy season, reporting that 6 million people need food aid until the next harvest in April 2020.

Severe drought is affecting 15 million people in parts of Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s Minister for Innovation and Technology announced last month that the country planted over 350 million trees in 12 hours to combat deforestation and mitigate drought.

Guinea’s National Director of Meteorology agrees with farmers who blame logging in higher-altitude forests in part for lack of rainfall, leading to drought that precluded June planting. The Ministry of Environment estimates that 35,000 hectares (86,487 acres) of forest are lost annually, and only 60 percent of the country’s forests are protected, potentially increasing the country’s baseline risk to climate change.

Nearly 28,000 people face starvation in South Sudan after flooding hindered planting in the country’s lowlands.

Flooding in Sierra Leone killed two people, displaced more than 500, destroyed over 60 houses, and sunk some fishing boats in early August.

Flooding in the Kwara State capital in Nigeria displaced over 1,000 people from their homes last month.

Heavy rains flooded the Sudanese capital of Khartoum and other areas this month, killing at least six people.

NOTE ON ADMINISTRATIVE BOUNDARIES
There are numerous regions around the world where country borders are contested. ISciences depicts country boundaries on these maps solely to provide some geographic context. The boundaries are nominal, not legal, descriptions of each entity. The use of these boundaries does not imply any judgement on the legal status of any territory, or any endorsement or acceptance of disputed boundaries on the part of ISciences or our data providers.

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Many analyses reported in ISciences-authored blog posts are based on data generated by the ISciences Water Security Indicator Model (WSIM). Other sources, if used, are referenced in footnotes accompanying individual posts. WSIM is a validated capability that produces monthly reports on current and forecast global freshwater surpluses and deficits with lead times of 1-9 months at 0.5°x0.5° resolution. This capability has been in continuous operation since April 2011 and has proven to provide reliable forecasts of emerging water security concerns in that time-frame. WSIM has the ability to assess the impacts of water anomalies on people, agriculture, and electricity generation. Detailed data, customized visualizations, and reports are available for purchase.

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