Seasonal Drought in the Greater Horn of Africa and Its Recent Increase during the March–May Long Rains
Journal of Climate
This paper provides a review of atmospheric circulation and sea surface temperature (SST) conditions that are associated with meteorological drought on the seasonal time scale in the Greater Horn of Africa (the region 108S-158N, 308-528E). New findings regarding a post-1998 increase in drought frequency during the March-May (MAM) "long rains" are also reported. The period 1950-2010 is emphasized, although rainfall and SST data from 1901-2010 are used to place the recent long rains decline in a
... ultidecadal context. For the latter case, climate model simulations and isolated basin SST experiments are also utilized. Climatologically, rainfall exhibits a unimodal June-August (JJA) maximum in west-central Ethiopia with a generally bimodal [MAM and October-December (OND) maxima] distribution in locations to the south and east. Emphasis will be on these three seasons. SST anomalies in the tropical Pacific and Indian Oceans show the strongest association with drought during OND in locations having a bimodal annual cycle, with weaker associations during MAM. The influence of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon critically depends on its ability to affect SSTs outside the Pacific. Salient features of the anomalous atmospheric circulation during drought events in different locations and seasons are discussed. The post-1998 decline in the long rains is found to be driven strongly (although not necessarily exclusively) by natural multidecadal variability in the tropical Pacific rather than anthropogenic climate change. This conclusion is supported by observational analyses and climate model experiments, which are presented.