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AGRICULTURE REPORT - Experts Link East Africa Drought to La Niña in the Pacific

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A refugee woman and her child from Somalia sit with their belongings outside Ifo refugee camp in Dadaab, near the Kenya-Somalia border
A refugee woman and her child from Somalia sit with their belongings outside Ifo refugee camp in Dadaab, near the Kenya-Somalia border

This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

East Africa's drought is the worst in sixty years. Scientists say the dry conditions in the Horn of Africa are at least partly the result of an event half a world away.

The event is called La Niña, which means "little girl" in Spanish. A La Niña begins when waters become cooler than normal in the eastern Pacific Ocean near the equator. Changes in wind currents can then affect weather around the world. A related event, called an El Niño, happens when the waters become unusually warm.

La Niñas and El Niños happen about every three to five years. The latest La Niña began in July of last year and ended in May. The conditions can last for up to two years.

Wassila Thiaw studies Africa for the Climate Prediction Center at the National Weather Service in the United States. With a La Niña, Mr. Thiaw says the easterly winds that are supposed to bring moisture into East Africa are reduced.

WASSILA THIAW: "There was less moisture coming into East Africa and therefore rainfall is reduced."

Starting late last year, rains that were supposed to fall over Somalia, southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya failed. That part of the Horn of Africa has a second rainy season from March through May. Mr. Thiaw says that one failed, too, but for different reasons.

WASSILA THAW: "What played out here during the March-April-May season we do not think that is really La Niña.  But it [is] probably mostly due to the atmospheric conditions that prevailed at that time."

Mr. Thiaw says La Niña conditions might begin again by the end of this year. And if that happens, he says, then the October-through-December rainy season could again be dryer than normal.

Climate researcher Simon Mason at Columbia University in New York says East Africa has been getting drier over about the last ten years. Mr. Mason says this is at least partly the result of global warming. Rising temperatures in the Indian Ocean create conditions that pull moisture away from East Africa.

Claudia Ringler at the International Food Policy Research Institute also points to another issue. She said by Skype that much of the land in the drought-affected areas is not very productive even in good times.

CLAUDIA RINGLER: "It will not get any better. Even if we have a bit more rainfall, the general potential for more food production is not expected to improve dramatically in the region."

In the United States, the latest La Niña pushed moisture away from the south, causing severe droughts. Texas has suffered billions of dollars in agricultural losses. Changes in the winds pushed the rain toward northern states, causing floods.

And that's the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, written by Jerilyn Watson and Steve Baragona. To find transcripts and MP3s of our programs, or to post comments, visit our website www.unsv.com.  I'm Karen Leggett.

网友的学习评论(5条):
作者:lvjiaying1984
The climate changes have taken place in the last few years. The average global weather temperatures have risen about seven degrees by the end of last year. I recall from my childhood that when I was a elementary student, in winter, we had to push puff onto our hands to make them warm enough to carry the responsibility to write something with. Even if there are other reasons like the warming facilities in school now which we didn't have when I was a child studying in an elementary school,
作者:lvjiaying1984
the fact that the temperature is rising is true. And when I was a middle school student, about ten years after when I was a elementary school student, the condition of the weather had changed dramatically. In winter you didn't have to wear gloves even in the several coldest days of the winter. And it is unneeded to wear something on your commute every day between home and school which I abhorred because my home was quite far away from where I studied.
作者:lvjiaying1984
And in summer, the weather has become unbearably hot in the summer and the only place people choose to stay in is the comfortable room with a air-conditioning inside it. The rising of the temperatures could profoundly affect the way the earth is heated by the sun. The sun strikes the earth mainly in the form of visible light. But when the earth radiates the energy back into space, it is mainly in the form of infrared wavelengths. So the warmer, the more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,
作者:lvjiaying1984
the earth's heat is blocked from escaping. Not only the temperature, the circumstances in the countryside have also changed a lot. When I was a kid, I could catch some fish in the pool located in the eastern part of my village. But now, you can never see anything in the pool because it has dried up, making phytoplanktons unable to live in the water. People dump human and chemical waste into the rivers, lakes and streams. If we cannot protect phytoplanktons in the water,
作者:lvjiaying1984
we will not be able to live because they provide nearly ninety percent of the earth's oxygen. The development of the industry has put enormous pressure on world food supplies because nearly all the fertile land has been change into that for industrial use and people have given whoever has a desire to colonize some land to them. If we are to succeed as a society in the twenty-first century, we had better cherish what land we have and make the most of it.
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