The Southern Africa Regional Climate Outlook has forecast a repeat of the 2015 weather pattern in which some parts of the region, including Malawi, experienced extreme drought and episodes of heavy flooding.
The outlook submitted to the 21st Annual Southern Africa Regional Climate Outlook Forum (Sarcof-21) held in Botswana last month covering the major rainfall season from October 2017 to March 2018 indicates that from November to January, northern and southern parts of Malawi would experience increased chances of normal to below normal rainfall.
Usually, the November/December to January period is when these parts experience normal rainfall for farmers to plant.
The Southern African Development Community (Sadc) climate experts have said the first phase of the below normal to normal rains could result in some countries in the region experiencing devastating drought and the second phase of normal to above normal rains resulting in floods.
Reads the report in part: “The climate scientists took into account oceanic and atmospheric factors that influence our climate over the Sadc region. In particular, the El Niño-Southern Oscillation [Enso] which is currently in its neutral phase.
“The Enso is projected to continue in the neutral phase during the entire forecast period with some models predicting neutral with a tendency of weak La Niña while most models predict neutral with a tendency towards weak El Niño.”
The Sadc Climate Services Centre has since called for careful planning to prepare for the disasters and ensure food security to those affected.
The centre’s coordinator, Nsadisa Faka, has asked national departments of Meteorological Services and Climate Change Management to break down the forecast for farmers and other stakeholders.
He said the regional model could not capture the local level outlook, but gives a global outlook for planning purposes.
Said Faka: “The details will be provided by each member State because at the Sadc level we are giving a regional scale.”
Malawi’s director of the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services, Jolamu Nkhokwe, said in an interview yesterday the local team was aware of the forecast and would soon be releasing the Forecast and expectations ahead of the start of the rainy season.
Climate scientists from the Sadc National Meteorological Hydrological Services and the Sadc Climate Services Centre formulated the outlook with additional input from global climate prediction centres such as European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecast and Famine Early Warning Systems Network.
The 2015 rainfall season in Malawi was characterised by droughts and floods which affected an estimated 2.8 million people who required food and humanitarian assistance and killed 176 people, mostly in Blantyre, Nsanje, Chikwawa and Phalombe.
President Peter Mutharika declared Malawi was in a state of disaster when it was estimated that about 2.8 million people would be without food.
Last season, the country recovered due to La Nina rainfall patterns which meant that most parts of the country experienced normal to above normal rainfall and harvested 3.8 million metric tonnes of maize.
This has resulted in food inflation going down and an improvement in the general macro-economic environment as evidenced by the ever decreasing inflation. n