EXPERT COMMENT

EXPERT COMMENT: Indian Ocean dipole has caused heaviest rain since 1961

In Summary

• People need to be on the constant lookout for regular updates from the Met department.

• While the case currently is heavy rains, the next challenge will be prolonged dry season which might adversely affect livelihoods. 

The ongoing heavy rains have resulted from a phenomenon called the Indian Ocean dipole. It involves the warming of one side of the ocean and the cooling of another.

In the present case, the western side of the Indian Ocean (near East Africa) has been warming up while the eastern side (closer to Australia) cools. The hot air over the eastern part of the ocean moves to the cooler west, making the vapours condense into the heavy rains.

The occurrence is not strange as it has happened many times before. However, the current situation is the heaviest since 1961. In addition, the phenomenon has also had an effect during heavy rain seasons such as El Nino. 

 
 

Having said this, we cannot rule out the role of climate change in all these. According to my climate science, the heightened warming of the ocean, the prolonged droughts, increased heat in the atmosphere and more aggressive rains are all attributable to climate change. 

As we (the Met department) have predicted consistently, the rains are set to subsist till the end of the month of December and may likely cross into January in the new year.

Bernard Chanzu
Bernard Chanzu
Image: FILE

The western part of the country including Nyanza, Western province and parts of Rift Valley as well as Central, Coastal region and Eastern will continue receiving the rains. 

People need to be on the constant lookout for regular updates from the Met Department. 

These updates are scientific and highly reliable.

The import of the persisting rains is that people need to keep safe and move to higher grounds to avoid being victims of the floods and landslides. They should also watch out for flash floods, especially in the historically black spots. 

Moving waters can also suddenly flow into areas that have not rained.

Moving forward, after acknowledging that climate change is here with us, our focus needs to shift to adaptation and mitigatory initiatives to avoid further loss of life and destruction of property.

While the case currently is heavy rains, the next challenge will be prolonged dry season which might adversely affect livelihoods. 

Bernard Chanzu is the deputy director in charge of weather forecasting at the Kenya Met Department. He spoke to the Star.