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Fri, 23 Feb 2018
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South Africa suffered its driest year on record in 2015, threatening food security

South Africa drought
© Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko
South Africa's national weather service has announced that the country is experiencing the lowest rainfall and driest summer in more than 110 years. Adding that the country suffered its driest year on record in 2015, threatening food security.

According to the weather service, average rainfall was 403 mm, about a third less than the 608 mm annual average and the driest since records began in 1904.

The agricultural sector is being hammered by weeks of heat waves that have scorched grazing land, forcing livestock owners to kill or sell animals.

The rural farming town last saw rain on December 15 and has had a severe water shortage for the past three months, with residents having to queue for water. Large parts of the country are facing their worst drought and highest temperatures in decades.

Africa's most advanced economy, a maize exporter, may need to import as much as 5 million tonnes this year, roughly half of its requirements.

A farmer in the maize-producing town of Hoopstad,Chris Skoenwinkle said they are two months late in planting.

Agricultural analysts said the cost of maize imports to make up for lack of crops will be a big burden.

"We've got to import about, in the vicinity of about four million tonnes of maize if it doesn't rain and the rain just stays away. That means we will have to import about 12 billion rands worth of maize," said agricultural economist Ernst Janovsky.

Comment: Warning: Global food crisis early 2016, predicts aid agencies


Zimbabwe to increase food imports as drought hits production badly

A Zimbabwean gathers cobs in a sack for milling at her village in Musana Bindura on September 2, 2015. Zimbabwe is facing food shortages, having been left with only eight weeks of maize reserves.
Local millers say the country only has around 248,000 tonnes of maize left, enough to last 8 weeks.

Zimbabwe's Agriculture Minister Joseph Made says food imports will be stepped up following reports that the country is left with just two months' supply of grain.

Aid agencies warned earlier this year that 1.5 million Zimbabweans would go hungry after a drought hit maize production badly.

Local grain millers say the country only has around 248,000 tonnes of maize left, enough to last eight weeks.

The Herald says Agriculture Minister Joseph Made has admitted that grain stocks are low, but he couldn't give figures.


Colombia under red alert due to drastic drop in water levels and forest fires in Andes mountains

El Cisne lake colombia, drought

A drought caused by El Nino exposes the bed of the El Cisne lake in Colombia, July 31, 2014.
Colombia has issued a red alert in the aftermath of low water levels in the country's main rivers and forest fires burning across the Andes Mountains.

President Juan Manuel Santos made the declaration on Wednesday on the request of Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (IDEAM).

The decision was made in the wake of a drastic drop in water levels in the two key rivers of Magdalena and Cauca, which supply hundreds of towns and cities in the South American country.


Lake Poopo, Bolivia's second largest lake has almost dried up

Dried up Lake Poopo, Bolivia

Dried up Lake Poopo, Bolivia
The government of the western Bolivian province of Oruro issued a declaration of natural disaster Saturday after learning that Lake Poopo, the second largest in the country after Titicaca and which once covered more than 1,780 sq. miles, has almost dried up.

Oruro Gov. Victor Hugo Vasquez enacted a law that declared it a natural disaster, which will speed up the acquisition and use of funds to somehow improve the disastrous situation, which also affects the economy of the inhabitants of eight municipalities in the area.

The disappearance of Lake Poopo, announced this week in the media, took Oruro authorities by surprise as it did the national government, which was unaware of the gravity of the situation.

The lake, high up in the Andes, is in the process of desertification due to climate change, the weather phenomena El Niño and La Niña, and mining pollution, which have combined to made it into "a lifeless lake," agronomist Milton Perez of Oruro Technical University told EFE.

Cloud Grey

Panama drought set to continue as El Niño rocks Central America

© Reuters
Children look at a carcass of a cow that died in Nicaragua's 2014 drought.
More drought is expected in Panama before the end of the year, experts said Sunday, adding to months of difficult conditions for farmers in the face of parched soils across Central America.

The climatology department at the Etesa electrical company called on Panamanians to exercise caution with water use during the upcoming dry spell to ensure reservoirs can continue to meet needs across the country, Cuban news agency Prensa Latina reported. The company said that water conservation is the responsibility of everyone so that resources can be effectively shared. The news comes as experts predict 2015 will be the hottest year on record.


California's infrastructure being destroyed as drought plagued areas continue sinking

California drought
© David McNew/Getty Images
Cracks form in a field near Firebaugh, California.
On a day when the skies were ashen from the smoke of distant wildfires, Chase Hurley kept his eyes trained on the slower-moving disaster at ground level: collapsing levees, buckling irrigation canals, water rising up over bridges and sloshing over roads.

This is the hidden disaster of California's drought. So much water has been pumped out of the ground that vast areas of the Central Valley are sinking, destroying millions of dollars in infrastructure in the gradual collapse.

Four years of drought - and the last two years of record-smashing heat - have put water in extremely short supply.

Such climate-charged scenarios form the backdrop to the United Nations negotiations starting in Paris on 30 November, which are seeking to agree on collective action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

But the real-time evidence of climate change and the other effects of human interference in natural systems are already changing the contours of California's landscape.

Comment: What if it's not drought per se that is causing California to sink, but 'Earth opening up' from below that is causing aquifers to disappear?


Drought threatens habitat of migratory birds in California

© Reuters
Sandhill cranes land in flooded fields at the Sandhill Crane Reserve near Thornton, California, Nov. 3, 2015. The state's ongoing drought has left millions of waterfowl that migrate from northern climes to California with fewer places to land, seek food.
With their red heads, 2.13-meter (7-foot) wingspan and a trilling call, migrating Sandhill Cranes provide a dramatic sunset spectacle as they land by the thousands in wetlands near Sacramento each night during the fall and winter.

But the state's ongoing drought has left the cranes, along with millions of other waterfowl that migrate from Canada and other northern climes to spend the winter in California, with fewer places to land, threatening their health as they crowd in on one another to seek shelter and food.

"They're left with fewer and fewer places to go, which will start to have impacts on their population," said Meghan Hertel, who works on habitat issues for the Audubon Society in California. "They can die here from starvation or disease or be weaker for their flight back north."

Blue Planet

UN Report: Major rise in weather disasters over last 2 decades

A flood-affected resident swims through floodwaters in Kalay, upper Myanmar’s Sagaing region on August 3, 2015. Relentless monsoon rains have triggered flash floods and landslides, destroying thousands of houses, farmland, bridges and roads with fast-flowing waters hampering relief efforts.
Since 1995, weather disasters have killed millions of people & left billions injured & homeless.

Weather-related disasters such as floods and heatwaves have occurred almost daily in the past decade, almost twice as often as two decades ago, with Asia being the hardest hit region, a UN report said on Monday.

While the report authors could not pin the increase wholly on climate change, they did say that the upward trend was likely to continue as extreme weather events increased.

Since 1995, weather disasters have killed millions of people, left billions injured, homeless or in need of aid, and accounted for 90 percent of all disasters, it said.

A recent peak year was 2002, when drought in India hit 200 million and a sandstorm in China affected 100 million.

But the standout mega-disaster was Cyclone Nargis, which killed 138,000 in Myanmar in 2008.


UN reports criminal behavior of staff members: Child porn, assault, abusive conduct and theft

un criminal behavior
Four UN staff members have been "dismissed" after storing and sharing pornographic images including those of children, a UN report revealed. It also mentions one member having been fired for transporting over 170 kg worth of pot.

These five cases are the most outrageous out of 75 disciplinary and "criminal behavior" matters that the United Nations has listed in its report that came to light on Friday.

According to the UN investigation, four of its members "stored" and "distributed" pornographic material, including "pornography involving a minor."

The UN labeled the cases as having been a "misuse" of its information and communications technology resources; in all four cases staffers used the organization's computers and emails.

The paper does not disclose either names of those behind the misbehavior nor when the incidents took place.

Another incident involved a man who decided to use a UN vehicle to transport 173 kg (381 lbs) of marijuana. The report gives no further details, but it is clear from it that the staffer was sacked over the "misuse of United Nations property or assets".

Comment: This is hardly behavior representative of an organization whose promulgated mission includes humanitarian and human rights issues. These revelations along with the farcical appointment of Saudi Arabia to head the UN Human Rights council and the history of abuse by 'peacekeeping forces' betray the level of ponerization of the entire organization.

Snowflake Cold

Powerful El Niño forecasted to bring significant rain to California, increased storminess to eastern U.S.

el nino 2015
Since the first indication that a powerful El Niño was set to develop, there has been significant speculation about what impacts it would have within the United States.

El Niño is defined by above-normal sea surface temperatures in the eastern and central equatorial Pacific Ocean.

Occurring every two to five years, El Niño's most significant effects on North America occur during the wintertime.

However, the resulting weather varies depending on where the warm water temperatures are centered.

"Confidence continues to grow that this El Niño will be one of the strongest El Niños over the past 50 years," according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Brett Anderson.

Comment: According to this report from the NOAA, the 1997/98 El Niño, was one of the most significant climatic events of the century, and produced extreme weather worldwide. During this El Niño, temperature and precipitation records were broken across the United States. Many areas suffered heavy flooding, and the U.S. experienced a series of severe tornadoes. Elsewhere around the world, El Niño contributed to major droughts and wildfire in Mexico, Indonesia and Brazil; devastating floods in South America; and massive coral bleaching from Panama to Africa to Australia's Great Barrier Reef.