When the Pacific sneezes Africa catches a cold
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CTA. 1994. When the Pacific sneezes Africa catches a cold. Spore 54. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/49525
Parts of southern Africa continue to experience periods of drought and failure of crops, particularly of the staple crop m the region - maize. Predicting such droughts has always centred on analysis of regional temperature and rainfall...
Parts of southern Africa continue to experience periods of drought and failure of crops, particularly of the staple crop m the region - maize. Predicting such droughts has always centred on analysis of regional temperature and rainfall fluctuations, and such forecasts have not been reliable. Recent research reveals that small fluctuations of temperature in the Pacific Ocean are a much more accurate indicator of drought in southern Africa. A team of climatologists at the Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory in New York have shown that changes in surface temperature in the eastern Pacific can be used to predict more than 60% of the variation in maize yields in Zimbabwe. The sea surface temperature changes are caused by the behaviour of the El Ni o current, which traverses the Pacific, affecting winds and rainfall on both' sides of the Pacific. However, the research team has. been amazed to discover the effect of El Ni o so far away in southern Africa. The New York team has collaborated with Roger Buck land, a food security expert from SADC based in Zimbabwe. Together they have developed a model for forecasting the regional maize crop with 'significant skill' end with sufficient lead-time to advise farmers in advance of the maize planting season. So far the scientists can explain neither the correlation between the Pacific Ocean temperature and southern Africa crop productivity, nor the precise influence on maize growth. It could be air temperature, rainfall or even variations in the population of fieldmice which feed on the maize; fieldmouse populations may fluctuate with weather changes. Dr Mark Lane, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Colombia University, POB 1000, New York, 10964 8000, USA Roger Buckland, SADC, PO Box 776, Bulawayo, ZIMBABWE