Windhoek — Southern Africa is expected to receive erratic rainfall in the 2018/19 agricultural season, according to the latest outlook produced by regional climate experts, who have predicted that seasonal rainfall will be "normal to below-normal" across most of the region.
The consensus forecast produced by the 22nd Southern African Regional Climate Outlook Forum (SARCOF) held in Lusaka, Zambia, revealed that most of the 16 Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries are likely to receive "normal to below-normal" rainfall in the period of October 2018 to March 2019. The SARCOF forecast is divided into two half-seasons: from October to the end of December 2018, and from January to the end of March 2019.
According to the forecast, the areas that are likely to receive normal to below-normal rainfall from October to December 2018 include eastern Angola, the extreme northern and southern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), western and southern Madagascar, southern Malawi, most of Botswana, eSwatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and most of Namibia and South Africa - however, excluding the western fringes of the two countries along the Atlantic coast.
The rainfall forecast does not change much during the second half of the season: from January to March 2019 when most of the region is expected to receive normal to below normal rainfall. The areas that are forecasted to receive adequate rainfall in that period are Angola, the northern tip of Botswana, Comoros, south-eastern DRC, northern Malawi, Madagascar, Mauritius, north eastern Mozambique, northern Namibia, Seychelles, southern Tanzania, and the western and northern regions of Zambia.
Climate experts have forecasted an early onset of the 2018/19 season - a false start that could be followed by prolonged dry spells that disturb the timing and spatial distribution of rainfall around the region. While developing this outlook, the climate scientists took oceanic and atmospheric factors into account that influence climate over southern Africa.
In particular, the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is estimated to to shift from neutral to the warm phase during the forthcoming season. Insufficient rainfall to meet the needs of the agricultural and power generation sectors is predicated for most of the SADC region. The region should, therefore, brace for erratic rains or even drought conditions over large portions of southern Africa. The associated agricultural risks include limited water availability, poor grazing and heat stress that could affect both crops and livestock.