Understanding the Evolution and Socio-Economic Impacts of the Extreme Rainfall Events in March-May 2017 to 2020 in East Africa

Abstract

This study aimed at assessing the evolution, distribution and the socio-economic impacts of extreme rainfall over East Africa during the March, April and May (MAM) rainfall season focusing on assessing the trends and contribution of MAM rainfall in mean annual rainfall across the region. 

It employed Principal Component Analysis (PCA) methods to capture the patterns and variability of MAM rainfall. The PCA results indicated that the first Principal Component (PC) describe 17% of the total variance, while the first six PCs account only 53.5% of the total variance in MAM rainfall, underscoring the complexity of rainfall forcing factors in the region. 

It has been observed that MAM rainfall accounts about 30% - 60% of the mean annual rainfall in most parts of the region, signifying its importance in agriculture, water, energy and other socio-economic sectors. MAM has been characterized by increasing variability with varying trend patterns across the region. The MAM rainfall trend is not homogeneous across the region; some areas are experiencing a slight decreasing rainfall trend, while other areas are experiencing a slight increasing rainfall trend.

The observed trend dynamics is consistent with the global trend patterns in precipitation as depicted in recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports. Over the last five years MAM rainfall season have been characterized by record-breaking extremes. 

On 8th May 2017, Tanga and Mombasa meteorological stations recorded 316 mm and 235.1 mm of rainfall in 24 hours respectively, which are the highest amounts for these respective stations, since their establishment. Record highest 24 hours rainfall amounting to 134.9 mm and 119.4 mm were also observed at Buginyanya and Kawanda meteorological stations in Uganda on 18th March 2018 and 7th May 2020. On 6th May 2020, Byimana meteorological station in Rwanda, also observed 140.6 mm of rainfall in 24 hours, the highest since its establishment. 

These extremes have caused multiple losses of life and property, and severe damages to infrastructure. Unfortunately, the frequency and intensity of these extremes are projected to increase under a changing regional climate patterns. It is therefore important that more studies are carried out to enhance understanding about the evolution, dynamics and predictability of these extremes in East Africa region.

The study is available here https://www.scirp.org/journal/paperinformation.aspx?paperid=103422 

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