• Met said El Niño will likely be a "strong" or "significant" phenomenon, meaning drought-stricken Kenya should prepare for unusually huge amounts of rainfall.
• Kenya last experienced extraordinarily heavy rainfall between May 1997 and February 1998 due to the El Nino weather phenomenon,
Buckle up! Weather experts say they are 90 per cent confident a strong El Niño is on the way.
The US and Japan weather agencies said the El Niño would begin at the end of this month and continue into 2024.
They said it will likely be a “strong” or “significant” phenomenon, meaning Kenya should prepare for unusually heavy rainfall this year.
“El Niño is likely to form during the May-July season and persist into the winter (February 2024),” the US National Weather Service Climate Prediction Centre said.
“The combination of a forecast third westerly wind event in mid-late May, and high levels of above-average oceanic heat content means that a potentially significant El Niño is on the horizon.”
However, because sudden weather changes can be unpredictable, it is still possible an El Niño fails to materialise, but there is only a five to 10 per cent chance of that, the centre said.
On Friday, Japan's weather bureau said conditions were nearing for the El Niño phenomenon to form in the equatorial region of the Pacific, and there was an 80 per cent chance it would be seen by the northern hemisphere summer, Reuters reported.
Kenya last experienced extraordinarily heavy rainfall between May 1997 and February 1998 due to the El Niño weather phenomenon. The intense rainfall and flooding destroyed infrastructure and property, displacing thousands of people and resulting in disease outbreaks.
There was also an El Niño in 2015–16 but its effects were not as great as anticipated in Kenya.
The country is currently improving its preparedness and forecasting capability.
Last month, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization provided ICT equipment worth Sh34 million to counties to support climate change data collection.
Environment and Climate Change PS Festus Ngeno said it's necessary to improve and promote the use of ICT infrastructure in information sharing on environment and climate change issues.
He said equipping county climate change units with 124 computers will enhance their capacities for climate change reporting.
“This is one of the key mandates to the counties by the Climate Change Act. This will also eventually feed into the national reporting obligations that will enable the government to undertake both domestic and global reporting through theUN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) processes,” the PS said.
He said climate change is becoming the new normal and its impacts are becoming more evident, frequent and severe. This, he said, is vividly corroborated by science.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change synthesis report released in March 2023, indicates that the average global warming is already 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre industrial levels.
The report showed that every increment of warming results in rapid escalation of hazards with dire consequences for vulnerable communities.
Without deep and sustained emissions cuts, this trend may go on, leading to increased temperatures and further devastating impacts.
The PS said the country is just emerging from the worst drought in 40 years, yet Kenyans are already experiencing destructive floods.
“This pendulum swing from one extreme event to another seems to be increasing with huge negative impacts on the livelihoods and the economy," he said.
"Kenya, like most developing countries, is highly vulnerable to climate change and hence the need to provide adequate and predictable financial support to implement climate action."
Ngeno said development partners should help through development and implementation of programmes and projects to help the country meet its climate action obligations. They are outlined in the Nationally Determined Contributions and National Climate Change Action Plan.
“This project built technical capacity of all the county climate change unit officers. This is core if the country is to sufficiently implement the National Climate Change action plans.
"Counties need to be supported since this is where the rubber meets the road in terms of climate change impacts,” Ngeno said. "Counties need more support.
(Edited by V. Graham)