Weatherman warns long rains likely to delay

Saturday March 23 2019

Turkana drought

Turkana residents fetch water from a borehole. Two people have died of hunger in Turkana Central constituency. PHOTO PETER WARUTUMO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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There seems to be little chance of a reprieve for Kenyans against the ongoing drought even as they expect the long rains to start pouring down later this month.

This is because the drought, which has left at least 1.1 million people in need of urgent food aid, will not be ending soon and may actually spread out according to the latest predictions by the Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD).


Cyclone Idai may have killed more than 500 people and devastated thousands in the southern African nations of Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, but in Kenya, the storm is expected to leave millions hungrier, according to KMD.

According to the weatherman, the onset of long rains has delayed because the cyclone delayed the movement of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) — a belt of low pressure near the equator, “where trade winds of the northern and southern hemispheres come together” to create favourable conditions for rains.

As the government and food aid agencies continue distributing food and water to starving Kenyans in different parts especially in Turkana, Baringo and some parts of Coast and northern Kenya, more will need food aid in the coming months as the March-April- May rainfall is expected to be short and sparsely distributed.

Although above-average rainfall for most parts of the country was expected except for parts of Eastern Kenya and the Coastal regions in accordance with the Climate Outlook, the situation has abruptly changed due to the cyclone, said KMD in its latest weather update.


“The seasonal rainfall onset was also expected to be timely over several parts of the country. However, a tropical cyclone known as “IDAI” located in the Mozambican Channel has delayed the northward movement of the rain-bearing ITCZ,” said Stella Aura, the Acting director of meteorological services at KMD, in a briefing.

According to the update, “the cyclone significantly reduced moisture influx into the country and led to the continued sunny and dry weather conditions over the better part of the country.”

And more depressing is the fact that there is a possibility of more tropical cyclones which may further delay rains in the eastern parts of the country and prolonged dry spells in the western counties despite timely onset of the rains.

Also in play is the neutral to cooler than average sea surface temperatures along the Kenyan Coast and very warm sea surface temperatures to the east of which contributed to the delay in the establishment of the ITCZ over Kenya.