Expect no rains till late March, says weatherman

George Kebaso @Morarak

There is no single cloud on the horizon as sultry sun continues to bake many parts of the country, and the Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) says the wait for rains will remain a mirage in the near future.

The earliest drops of rain, according to KMD, would be experienced towards the end of March in Western Kenya, comprising Nyanza and parts of Southern, Central and Northern Rift Valley.

The weatherman’s forecast comes two weeks after Energy Cabinet secretary Charles Keter warned that Kenyans could be in for another round of power price hikes with hydroelectric generation expected to take a hit from the current dry spell.

Keter said the country’s hydro-electricity-generating projects, including Sondu Miriu and the Seven Forks dams in Embu, are performing dismally and water levels are at a point where the expensive thermal power plants could be the option.

The minister said there is a likelihood of shutting down the power-producing station that relies on Masinga Dam in the coming weeks due to low water levels. The situation is compounded by preliminary projections that some parts of the country might not receive adequate rains over the March-May long rains.

And according to KenGen, the minimum operating level for Masinga Dam is 1,037 metres above sea level but, should the levels drop below this, then the firm, which generates power from the Seven Folks waterworks, will have to shut down the 40 MW station. The water released will feed into the other power stations downstream including Kamburu, Gitaru and Kiambere dams.

This is unusual for Kenya which traditionally experienced the onset of the long rains from March through April to May, last year. “The distribution of March to May 2018 seasonal rainfall, both in time and space, is expected to be generally poor over most parts of the country,” KMD director, Peter Ambenje told journalists in Nairobi yesterday.

Ambenje said, this will worsen in March over the eastern sector particularly around the Arid and Semi Arid Lands (Asals) comprising North-eastern, the Coast region and some parts of South-eastern and Central Kenya.

However, the forecast indicates that several parts of North-western and Western Kenya, Central Rift Valley, parts of Central Kenya, Nairobi included, and a few areas in South-eastern Kenya are likely to experience “near-normal rainfall”.

“Most of the seasonal rainfall is expected during the peak month of April and in May. But the onset is expected during the third to fourth week of March over most parts of Western Kenya,” said Ambenje.

“Human-wildlife and inter-community conflicts over limited resources are likely to be on the rise in the affected areas,” Ambenje said. The prevailing situation is also expected to affect activities in the energy sector with the level of water at the Seven Folks, Turkwel and Sondu Miriu dams going down.

The director also said at the peak of rains, floods are expected in places like Budalang’i, mudslides in areas such as Baringo in the Rift Valley and Murang’a, among others. Other factors expected to be experienced with the dry spell include lack of water for drinking, sanitation and industrial use, particularly in the Eastern part of the country.

Experts have pointed the situation to the activities at the surface of the Pacific Ocean, which have continued to be colder than expected. The Pacific is by far the deepest ocean, as well as the broadest and longest, meaning that the amount of heat it can absorb and circulate within itself is immense.

“The forecast for March-April-May long rains is based on the prevailing and the expected evolution of what meteorologists term Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies over the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans,” said Ambenje.

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