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We must bite the bullet

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The year 2013 is currently on course to be among the top 10 warmest years since modern records began in 1850, according to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

Viewpoint by Wisdom Mdzungairi

The first nine months, January to September, tied with 2003 as the seventh warmest such period on record, with a global land and ocean surface temperature of about 0,48 C (0,86 F) above the 1961 and 1990 average.

In essence, hopes for more penetrating rains like the downpours experienced in some parts of the country and elsewhere were dashed as the latest seven-day forecast of the Meteorological Services Department (MSD) predicts only light showers for most parts of the country.

The MSD also predicts overcast conditions for the central parts and blazing hot weather for the south.

While most parts of the country will enjoy overcast conditions and the likelihood of thunderstorms and rain, the skies over the southern region will be mostly sunny as from today (Monday) while in other areas it should be warm during the day becoming mild overnight.

So we must be very, very worried, given that Zimbabwe has an agro-based economy and this forecast could dampen some “farmers’ spirit”.

Zimbabwe’s economy is sliding fast towards the abyss, and fears have been expressed by dry-land crop producers that they might plant up to 50% less than in the previous cropping season. The number of food insecure persons is expected to increase to 2,2 million during the lean period January-March 2014.

A food security snapshot shows that normal to above normal rains were forecasted for the start of the 2013/14 cropping season and that maize production will be lower in 2013 compared to the poor crop in 2012.

No doubt a bold political decision is needed as of yesterday to cushion millions of people across the country faced by starvation even before they have planted their crops. Clearly, with WMO provisional annual statement on the status of the Global Climate 2013 showing global warming would impact negatively on food production, government must bite the bullet to save the situation.

Quite a number of things must be righted if political leaders are serious about the stability of the country vis-à-vis climate change; water; environment, national security and agriculture.

International partners’ expertise is needed to deal with these issues to improve food production. Those in the corridors of power must start talking about indigenization, empowerment, food production, the economy in the context of our climate change plan, water etc.

WMO statement details precipitation, floods, droughts, tropical cyclones, ice cover and sea-level.

January-September 2013 was warmer than the same period in both 2011 and 2012, when La Niña had a cooling influence. Neither La Niña nor El Niño conditions were present during the first nine months of 2013 and are not expected to emerge by the end of the year. El Niño/La Niña is a major driver of our climate and the hottest years on record, 2010 and 1998, both had El Niño events.

In contrast with 2012, when the United States, in particular, observed record high annual temperatures, the warmth in 2013 was most extreme in Australia.
“Temperatures so far this year are about the same as the average during 2001-2010, which was the warmest decade on record,” WMO secretary-general Michel Jarraud said. “All of the warmest years have been since 1998 and this year once again continues the underlying, long-term trend the coldest years now are warmer than the hottest years before 1998.”

Surface temperatures are only part of the wider picture of our changing climate. The impact on our water cycle is already becoming apparent – as manifested by droughts, floods and extreme precipitation.

Although the relationship between climate change and the frequency of tropical cyclones is a matter of much research, it is expected that their impact will be more intense.

During the nine months, most of the world’s land areas had above-average temperatures, most notably in the southern African countries of Angola and Namibia. These were gripped by one of the worst droughts in the past 30 years.

Earlier this year, the Southern Africa Regional Climate Outlook Forum forecasted normal to above normal rainfall for the region in the rainy season that started in November and stretches up to the end of March 2014.

It was also thought that the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) would likely receive normal to above-normal rainfall for the period October to December 2013. But, the late arrival of the rains and hot weather has created anxiety in the country and the region in general.

For the period January to March 2014, the bulk of Sadc is expected to receive normal to above-normal rainfall.

However, the tongue stretching from eastern coast of northern Mozambique through central parts of the region extending to the south western central parts of the region are likely to receive above-normal to normal rainfall.
But the persistent dryness is likely to negatively impact the development of crops and pastoral conditions, with little opportunity for recovery before the end of the rainy season.

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