Articles | Volume 18, issue 2
Brief communication
14 Feb 2018
Brief communication |  | 14 Feb 2018

Brief communication: Drought likelihood for East Africa

Hui Yang and Chris Huntingford

Abstract. The East Africa drought in autumn of year 2016 caused malnutrition, illness and death. Close to 16 million people across Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya needed food, water and medical assistance. Many factors influence drought stress and response. However, inevitably the following question is asked: are elevated greenhouse gas concentrations altering extreme rainfall deficit frequency? We investigate this with general circulation models (GCMs). After GCM bias correction to match the climatological mean of the CHIRPS data-based rainfall product, climate models project small decreases in probability of drought with the same (or worse) severity as 2016 ASO (August to October) East African event. This is by the end of the 21st century compared to the probabilities for present day. However, when further adjusting the climatological variability of GCMs to also match CHIRPS data, by additionally bias-correcting for variance, then the probability of drought occurrence will increase slightly over the same period.

Short summary
Major drought in East Africa at the end of 2016 caused severe famine and loss of life. We pose the following question: are increasing levels of atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, due to human activity, making droughts such as this more likely? Computer models of the climate system are powerful tools to answer this. Scanning across a full set of these, we find that how future climate change will impact on East Africa ASO drought risk remains uncertain, in any particular year.
Final-revised paper