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The lesser-known monsoon droughts

India tends to dominate the monsoon-related news this time of year, despite the fact that there are multiple other monsoon regions that may be experiencing hydrological events that are just as extreme.  This year is a case in point:  about 80% of the recent links in a Google news search on “monsoon” relate to India and Nepal, in particular to the floods and landslides that killed at least 50 people there.  The other 20% refers mostly to the North American monsoon, in particular to the U.S. portion.  (Note that the recent precipitation events in India, though deadly, are part of several rainy episodes occurring since mid-July that have brought India as a whole up from 40% below normal precipitation to “only” 17% below normal.)

Our point is that there are fairly severe droughts in other world monsoon regions that have gotten comparatively little attention.  Equatorial Africa and South America are currently experiencing dry anomalies even stronger than the one in India.  That can be seen on our website here, as well as in this map of precipitation anomalies in the last 6 months:

Rainfall is particularly below normal in Venezuela, but it is interesting that this was predicted and seemingly planned for to some degree.  Back in early June the Venezuelan government predicted half the normal precipitation for the 2014 rainy season because of the effects of the developing El Nino.  Perhaps this can be viewed as a successful prediction, even though that El Nino event has thus far proven to be weak, at best.  Nevertheless, there is still suffering, with news articles reporting reduced crop planting and elevated cattle mortality in the severe drought.  News coverage of this, though, is fairly scant.

We also mentioned that equatorial Africa has less rain than usual, especially parts of Nigeria, Cameroon, and the Congo.  But it is difficult to find reports of widespread severe drought in those regions via the usual web searches, and the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET) is not reporting agricultural drought there.  So one wonders if this below-average rainfall is just not that much of a stress because the average rainfall is so high, or if there is perhaps some error in some of the gauge-based rainfall dataset that we have been using, or if news agencies simply haven’t picked up on local conditions.

Finally, the drought in at least some of the Korean peninsula seems to have been lessened by, unfortunately, torrential rains that have led to floods.  These floods have led to deaths, displacements, and destruction of farmland and residences.

These were just a few words to bring attention to some of the hydrological extremes happening in monsoon regions outside of India.  Over time we hope to build a collection of links to other websites that provide real-time updates on tropical weather events and their impacts; we don’t currently know of any single site that does this, but suggestions are very welcome.


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