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Famine in the Horn of Africa (1984) was caused by El Nino and currents in the Indian Ocean

Date:
July 29, 2014
Source:
Ghent University
Summary:
Oceanic patterns are important drivers of climatic variability. There is a clear link between periods of drought in the North Ethiopian Highlands and oceanic phases of El Nino, the Indian Ocean Dipole and the Southwestern Monsoons.

Famine in the Horn of Africa (1984) was caused by El Niño and currents in the Indian Ocean.
Credit: Image courtesy of Ghent University

Oceanic patterns are important drivers of climatic variability. There is a clear link between periods of drought in the North Ethiopian Highlands and oceanic phases of El Niño, the Indian Ocean Dipole and the Southwestern Monsoons.

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In order to demonstrate these links, PhD student Sil Lanckriet (Department of Geography, Ghent University) analyzed weather data since the 1950s, as delivered from a meteorological computer model. He used a procedure known as 'empirical orthogonal teleconnection analysis' (EOT). According to Piet Termonia of the Royal Meteorological Institute, such statistical techniques are a clear step forward, since they allow linking oceanic patterns across the planet with the climatic situation at a particular location on Earth's surface.

Probability for new droughts

For his PhD, Sil Lanckriet is studying climatic fluctuations in Ethiopia over the past centuries, as well as their impact on periods of drought and processes of soil erosion. His study area is located in Korem, the place written in our collective memory by several BBC documentaries, Live Aid and by the pictures of Sebastião Salgado. His promoters Jan Nyssen and Amaury Frankl are well acquainted with the area. They even relocated the exact locations of the pictures and documentaries that were world news at the time. "Our research experience in Ethiopia shows that it is certainly possible that a similar drought will occur again, but this time it will probably not lead to a famine as in 1984. The Ethiopians have been very active on matters such as reforestation and soil and water conservation. We could prove that the land is now much less vulnerable for the occurrence of droughts."

Enyew Adgo (Bahir Dar University) points out that East African meteorological agencies are well aware of the interactions between the Ethiopian weather and fluctuations of El Niño in the Pacific Ocean. The researchers show that similar patterns in the Indian Ocean should be incorporated by the meteorological models, in order to improve the prediction power of systems for Famine Early Warning.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Ghent University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Sil Lanckriet, Amaury Frankl, Enyew Adgo, Piet Termonia, And Jan Nyssen. Droughts related to quasi-global oscillations: a diagnostic teleconnection analysis in North Ethiopia. International Journal of Climatology, 2014 DOI: 10.1002/joc.4074

Cite This Page:

Ghent University. "Famine in the Horn of Africa (1984) was caused by El Nino and currents in the Indian Ocean." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140729115336.htm>.
Ghent University. (2014, July 29). Famine in the Horn of Africa (1984) was caused by El Nino and currents in the Indian Ocean. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140729115336.htm
Ghent University. "Famine in the Horn of Africa (1984) was caused by El Nino and currents in the Indian Ocean." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140729115336.htm (accessed December 21, 2014).

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