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Namibia’s persistent drought - El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO)

March 19, 2019

A while ago we published a blog entitled “Distant Weather Drums” about the La Niña effect which often results in abundant rain for Namibia.  But now the opposite oscillation persists, El Niño and we are ever in the grip of low rainfall and terrible drought in some areas.

 

 

 

While neither El Niño nor La Niña are an indication of more or less rain, low rainfall on the western side of the African continent is often associated with El Niño conditions.  (Sat image above shows the tell-tale 'warm tongues' crossing oceans)

 

Some rain has fallen, particularly in Damarland which we are looking forward to seeing in its vegetated splendour for a change. But much of the country remains in the grip of drought.

 

 

At the opposite end of the scale cyclonic weather is pounding the East coast of Africa particularly Mozambique.  The cyclone literally sucks all the moisture heading to Namibia into its vortex, flinging it at Mozambique with catastrophic results.  Image above and below - both sucking and chasing the moisture away from the African subcontinent.

 

 

 

El Niño happens when sea temperatures rise starting around Christmas along the coast of Ecuador and Peru - hence the Spanish name for “little boy“ El Niño, as the Christ child was born then.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Usually this happens every two to five years and can last several months - the ‘warm tongues’ can clearly be seen on the bottom of the chart starting around 2015, and they still persist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But it is not only this phenomenon which results in Namibia’s relatively arid west which stems from its location on the rain shadow side of the African continent where rainfall is less than on the more tropical East.    Added to this, the sub-tropical belt of high pressure encircling the earth tends to shed its moisture further north over equatorial Africa leaving Namibia’s coast with its unique aridity.

 

 

 

It is a curious juxtaposition of loving the life-giving rain, but appreciating too the the stark beauty of a landscape that survives without and is exquisitely beautiful as a result.