More Africa droughts as global temps rise

Jan. 28, 2011 at 8:56 PM
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SANTA BARBARA, Calif., Jan. 28 (UPI) -- The increased frequency of drought conditions in Eastern Africa for the last 20 years is likely to continue while global temperatures rise, researchers say.

Frequent or prolonged drought poses increased risk to millions of people in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia, who currently face potential food shortages, researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the U.S. Geological Survey say.

They say warming of the Indian Ocean causing decreased rainfall in eastern Africa is linked to global warming, a UCSB release reported Friday.

"Global temperatures are predicted to continue increasing, and we anticipate that average precipitation totals in Kenya and Ethiopia will continue decreasing or remain below the historical average," Chris Funk, a USGS scientist, says. "The decreased rainfall in Eastern Africa is most pronounced in the March to June season, when substantial rainfall usually occurs."

The research is part of an effort to identify areas of potential drought and famine, to target food aid and help inform agricultural development, environmental conservation and water resources planning.

"Forecasting precipitation variability from year to year is difficult, and research on the links between global change and precipitation in specific regions is ongoing so that more accurate projections of future precipitation can be developed," Park Williams, a postdoctoral fellow in the UCSB Department of Geography, says.

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