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Met Office Say We Contributed To East African Drought

February 28, 2013

By Paul Homewood


Africa drought


The UK Met Office have just published a new paper by Lott & Stott (no, they’re not a comic act!). They summarise:-


Human influence on global climate contributed to the causes of the 2011 East Africa drought, according to new research by the Met Office.

Millions of people in the region required emergency food aid after the failure of two rainy seasons – the ‘short rains’ (typically October to December) of 2010 and ‘long rains’ (March to June) of 2011.

Researchers used cutting edge climate change attribution techniques to quantify how the probability of these two unusually dry rainy seasons may have changed as a result of human influence on climate.

Dr. Fraser Lott, an Attribution Scientist at the Met Office and lead author on the paper, said: "We found that the particularly dry short rains in 2010 were most likely caused by natural variability. However, the chances of long rains as dry, or drier, as those of 2011 were found to have increased due to human influence."

The study used state of the art modelling techniques to see how likely the weather patterns that led to the drought were. They looked at both a world with mankind’s influence on climate, as well as ‘the world that might have been’ without manmade greenhouse gas emissions.

While there is evidence of substantial human influence on the risk of failure of the long rains in 2011, the magnitude of that increase is difficult to quantify.

This is due to uncertainty in the estimated pattern by which human influence has changed sea surface temperatures. Three different models were used to assess how the sea surface temperatures may have changed.

Initial research based on the three models suggests that human influence is to blame for between 24% and 99% of the increased risk of the dry conditions seen during the long rains season of 2011. Further research is seeking to narrow down on this figure.

Dr Peter Stott, Head of Climate Monitoring and Attribution at the Met Office and co-author of the paper, said: "It is rarely possible to declare that an event is entirely caused by anthropogenic climate change and would have been impossible without it.

"This study shows that both natural causes and human influence combined to cause the East Africa Drought. In this case, while we know human influence played a role there is considerable uncertainty about just how significant this was, highlighting the complexity of attribution."

The concept that human influence could have "loaded the dice" in favour, or against, the occurrence of a particular drought, flood or heat-wave has become widely accepted by scientists, but this doesn’t mean that we are yet able to reliably quantify the changed odds of all occurrences of extreme weather.




While they are looking at loading dice, perhaps the pair of them might like to tell us how the dice have been unloaded to make events like these less likely:-





Or the Great Chinese Famine of 1876-79, during which an estimated 13 million died.


ScreenHunter_55 Feb. 28 13.17


Or the Indian Great Famine of 1876-78, that killed another 10 million?


Or the Chinese Famine of 1907, which may have killed 24 million?


Chinese Famine of 1907


Or Brazil’s 1877–78 Great Drought, the most severe ever recorded in Brazil, that caused approximately half a million deaths.



But I don’t suppose there would be any grant money in that.

  1. Streetcred permalink
    March 1, 2013 12:59 am

    So East Africa never had drought before then ? ROTFLMAO … serious scientists at the UKMO should be roundly embarrassed by crud like this. Who’m I trying to fool, they have no serious scientists, just funding/grant chasers.

  2. Bill Irvine permalink
    March 1, 2013 10:27 am

    “Head of Climate Monitoring and Attribution at the Met Office” ?? eh? How big is his team? What are they spending our money on?
    Seriously though if a Head of Climate Monitoring and Attribution cannot find anything to attribute climate to, at least once a year (before budgets are set) his jacket is on a shoogly nail.

  3. Paul permalink
    March 1, 2013 12:11 pm

    Funny that! I saved an American University webpage I found a few years ago which featured a study written around the year 2000 mark, or so. Basically it studied the effect el nino had on one particular part of Africa and the drought experienced because of that effect.
    Recently I popped along to the website (how I wish I’d saved it in it’s original form) and was shocked to discover the website had completely changed into an extremist warming outlet.
    I emailed the site to try to recover the original page and engaged into conversation with a perfectly pleasant chap who I presume runs the site.
    Nothing in their search bar helped me find what I was looking for and after a few tetchy emails from Me expressing my surprise at the fundamental change to the site ( I wound up the bloke by telling Him I was a denier etc. etc.) I decided to stop any further correspondence.
    So I’m still trying to locate the missing page. Included on the page was a list of instances of el nino and the drought effect over the past few centuries. There was not one mention of climate change or carbon dioxide.
    Still looking and I’m still hopeful.

  4. Paul permalink
    March 1, 2013 6:41 pm

    Yes Paul and no luck there. I’m searching googlebooks which looks promising. Ill keep you posted.

  5. Paul permalink
    March 2, 2013 11:07 am

    Aha! Found it. Thanks Google:

    You can download the paper and it makes interesting reading.

    Of special interest is this table which I copied from the text:

    El Niño Years Drought/Famine Regions
    1539-41 1543-1562 Hararghe
    1618-19 1618 Northern Ethiopia
    1828 1828-29 Shewa
    1864 1864-66 Tigray and Gondar
    1874 1876-78 Tigray and Afar
    1880 1880 Tigray and Gondar
    1887-89 1888-1892* Ethiopia
    1899-1900 1899-1900 Ethiopia
    1911-1912 1913-1914 Northern Ethiopia
    1918-19 1920-22 Ethiopia
    1930-32 1932-1934 Ethiopia
    1953 1953 Tigray and Wollo
    1957-1958 1957-1958 Tigray and Wollo
    1965 1964-66 Tigray and Wollo
    1972-1973 1973-1974 Tigray and Wollo
    1982-1983 1983-1984 Ethiopia
    1986-87** 1987-1988** Ethiopia
    1991-92 1990-92 Ethiopia
    1993 1993-94 Tigray, Wollo, Addis
    Sources: Quinn and Neal (1987, 14451); Degefu (1987, 30-31);
    *Nicholls 1993; Webb and Braun; **Ayalew 1996.

    It’s a pdf so the table doesn’t paste very well but hey ho.

  6. David permalink
    March 3, 2013 12:09 pm

    Global temperature update is a bit slow this month Paul.

    Any particular reason?

    • March 3, 2013 1:05 pm

      I’ve been waiting for HADCRUT. They only just updated their figures yesterday.

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