Scientists Expect Drier Horn of Africa As Climate Warms


The Horn of Africa is becoming drier, as global temperatures continue to rise, according to a new study.

Researchers analysed sediment extracted from the Gulf of Aden, which separates East Africa from the Middle East, and their findings show it has dried at an unusually fast rate over the last century.


Contrary to previous models

The study contradicts a number of previous models that predict rainier weather patterns in the Horn of Africa, as temperatures rise. The region that covers Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea and Djibouti has endured a tough history of droughts, leading to severe food and health crises over recent decades.

The study, conducted by the University of Arizona, used sediments to simulate the temperatures and aridity of the region over the last 2,000 years. Jessica Tierny, who led the study, told Reuters of evidence that suggests an opposite trend to previous findings.

“What we see in the paleoclimate record from the last 2,000 years is evidence that the Horn of Africa is drier when there are warm conditions on Earth, and wetter when it is colder,” she said.


The effects of drought in East Africa

The Horn of Africa has suffered severe droughts every few years in recent decades, causing a number of health, agricultural and security crises in the area. The implications of drier weather in the Horn of Africa would be far reaching and current projections for development in the region could be put into doubt.

“If the region becomes dry, like we think it might get, that completely changes your models for food security and agriculture,” explains Tierny.

Aside from the devastation more droughts would cause within the countries themselves, the security concerns for politically unstable nations like Somalia could quickly spread across the region.


Featured image:

2011 Horn of Africa famine Oxfam 01” by Oxfam East Africa – Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons.