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El Niño: Implications and Scenarios for 2015/16 (December 2015)



The on-going El Nino event, officially declared in March, is now at its peak intensity. The event will become one the strongest if not the strongest ever recorded. From early 2016 it should start unwinding back to neutral conditions, that may be reached in the second quarter of 2016. The event has influenced most growing seasons of the northern hemisphere, and is now influencing those of southern Africa, Indonesia and Pacific and South America from late 2015 to early 2016. The impacts are wide ranging and generally negative in countries facing food insecurity.

Regional Highlights

  • Central America: The region experienced widespread drought during the Primera season and was followed by drier than average conditions at the early stages of the second season (Postrera). The Postrera season (major bean production) enjoyed a measure of recovery and is likely to end with near average harvests improving the situation. Most affected countries are Haiti, Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua.
  • West Africa: In the Sahel, a close to full recovery is expected, after favourable rainfall since mid July; no major impacts are expected. The rainfall season has come to an end with only localized concerns in Chad and southern Ghana showing seasonal deficits of some significance.
  • East Africa: Ethiopia’s Belg and Meher growing seasons were both affected by severe rainfall deficits leading to the worst drought in 50 years. The country is now dealing with a major drought related emergency. Sudan also affected by poor growing season as well as Eritrea and Djibouti. Sudan is facing a rainfed production shortfall and very poor conditions for pastoralists in East and centre. Poor season in Karamoja and some localized impacts in South Sudan, though late season rains helped pastoralists.​
  • Indian subcontinent and South Asia and Pacific: The season has been favourable in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but India and most of SE Asia countries faced seasonal rainfall deficits. Drier than average conditions have affected the Philippines, Indonesia and Pacific islands, throughout 2015 which should last until early 2016, with likely negative impacts on national crop production. PNG is facing the worst drought on record.​
  • Horn of Africa: Above average rainfall for the region in accordance with typical El Nino impacts led to flooding in Somalia, flash floods and landslides in Kenya. No large scale flooding is now expected, but Kenya should face continued localized flashfloods and landslides. With the exception of NE Kenya, the enhanced rainfall has led to good vegetation development in arid and semi-arid areas.
  • Southern Africa: There have been severe rainfall deficits in the early stages of the season, with delays in the start of the season and poor vegetation status. Drier than average conditions may affect the growing season over most of the region. This may turn into maize production shortfalls in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Malawi, with a risk of high impact on vulnerable populations. There is still time for recovery given that it is still early in the season, but close monitoring is required.
  • South America: Drier than average in northern areas of continent, wetter than average in southern Brazil, Paraguay and along coasts of Peru and Ecuador are anticipated for the start of the 2016 . Possible drought in NE Brazil and dryness in Bolivia as well as enhanced risk of flooding and landslides in Paraguay, Peru and Ecuador.