Namibia should brace itself for another dry spell – forecaster

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Windhoek

All areas of Namibia have only a 25 percent chance of experiencing a wetter than normal rainy season, a 40 percent likelihood of a normal rainy season, and a 35 percent chance of below-normal amounts of rain from October to March next year.

This bleak picture emerges from an analysis of the latest three-month forecast by the Namibia Meteorological Services, using weather models that have been developed by comparing the relationship between sea surface temperatures and Namibia’s rainfall pattern.

Sea surface temperatures in the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic oceans were used to calculate the newly released rainfall outlook, and the strong El Niño presence does not bode well for Namibian farmers.

According to meteorologist Jennifer Moetie of the Namibia Meteorological Services in Windhoek, Namibia should brace itself for the possibility of a second consecutive year of disappointing rainfall.

According to their three-month forecast, Namibia could experience normal to above-normal rainfall in November until January next year throughout the country. During December this year up to January and February 2016, the forecast is the same.

From January to March next year the western parts of Namibia can expect normal to above-normal rainfall, while the rest of the country could experience normal to below normal rainfall. The Southern Africa Regional Climate Outlook Forum analysis is that all areas of Namibia are likely to receive normal to below-normal quantities of rainfall over the coming rainy season, which started in October and ends at the close of March.

Currently, ocean surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean are higher than normal, which signifies the presence of an El Niño weather event. An El Niño event usually has the effect of reduced rainfall in Namibia and the rest of southern Africa. The current El Niño is reported to be the strongest since a previous record El Niño in 1997-98, which also turned out to be a drier than normal rainy season in most of Namibia.

While speakers at the recent annual Agricultural Outlook Conference in Pretoria were moderately positive with regard to the political climate in South Africa, they all expressed concern over the exceptionally strong El Niño presence that could spell doom for agriculturists in the 2015/16 rainy season.

For now, predictions are that the chances are good that the southwestern parts of Namibia will get reasonable showers during November and December, which will also spread to the southern parts in November, December and January 2016.

During December this year and January and February 2016 the prospects for rain are, however, low. The maximum temperatures during summer are expected to be very high.

The Namibian agricultural sector is still reeling from the effects of the 2013 drought – the worst in 35 years – and the prolonged dry spell of 2014/15.

Meanwhile, the latest NamWater Dam Bulletin shows that the major dams supplying Windhoek with water have reached their lowest levels in decades. The Swakoppoort Dam is only 20 percent full, compared to 47.9 percent at the same time last year, while the Von Bach Dam’s levels have dropped to 27.1 percent, compared to 46.8 percent this time last year. The current forecast spells doom and gloom for the Namibian agricultural sector, which is still reeling from the effects of the 2013 drought and the prolonged dry spell of 2014/15.

Some 550 000 Namibians are now in dire need of food aid and the government has rolled out a comprehensive drought food aid programme worth more than N$55 million.

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