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Worst drought in 60 years parches Africa; famine, death spreads

Update 8/5/2011 – The root of the famine in southern Somalia is Indian Ocean warming combined with La Nina conditions. Politics and poor governance also contributed. Over-reliance on the 2007 IPCC analysis projecting more rain in East Africa lulled response. Rising population and low agricultural productivity added risk. GR

Update 8/4/2011 – The famine has spread north in Somalia, entering the capital city of Mogadishu.

The Horn of Africa, which includes Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, and northern Kenya, is experiencing its worst drought in 60 years.  Rising food prices and dead cattle have left over 11 million people in need of food assistance.  Fighting among Somalia’s provisional government and two insurgent groups has prevented most aid from being delivered to those in need.  The arid conditions across the region are caused in part by a later than normal onset of rainfall, likely attributable to a natural pattern of climate variability known as La Nina. How climate change impacts and interacts with La Nina has yet to be determined.  However, some evidence suggests that droughts in this region could become more frequent and more severe in the future. GR and DB

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