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Mozambique - Climate

Mozambique has a tropical to subtropical climate, with some semi-arid regions in the southwest of the country. The east consists of lowlands while the west is more mountainous. Mozambique has a coastline of 2,700 kilometers. Average temperatures are highest along the coast as well as in the south of the country (20-26°C) and lower in high inland regions. There are seasonal temperature variations, with a cool dry season from April to September (coolest months are June – August) and a hot humid season from October to March (warmest months are December – February).

Rainfall is highest in the north (1,000 mm/year) and lowest in the southeast (500 mm/year), but also varies according to topographic features – with most rainfall in higher areas and along the coast (800-1,200 mm). The driest area of the country is the southern inland area, where some locations receive only 300 mm of rainfall per year. Rainfall mainly occurs during the hot season, from November to April – with the majority falling between December and February. The north receives 150-300 mm of rainfall per month during this season, while the south receives 50-150 mm per month.

The country experiences high levels of climate variability and extreme weather events (i.e. droughts, floods, and tropical cyclones). Droughts are the most frequent disaster, occurring every three to four years, and pose a major constraint to development since most of the country’s population, especially the poor, reside in rural areas and rely on rain-fed agriculture. Mozambique also lies at the end of numerous transnational river basins and flooding in its deltas is a perennial threat to both farmers and infrastructure, especially when coupled with cyclonic storm surges. Mozambique is already investing in prevention of natural hazards and improving its early warning systems. Adaptation measures are being implemented in the agriculture, fisheries, energy, environmental, and water sectors, with particular attention being paid to the coastal zones and erosion control.

Although industrial countries produce the lion's share of greenhouse gases globally, countries of the Global South are the ones facing the brunt of global warming — and they often have the least resources to adapt to changing weather patterns and rising seas. Mozambique is among such countries. Recurring droughts and floods destroy entire harvests, further threatening already precarious food security. One in four people already suffers from malnutrition, according to the World Food Program.

Mozambique is located on the eastern coast of southern Africa at 11-26° south of the equator, and has a tropical to sub-tropical climate that is moderated by its mountainous topography and influenced by the movement of the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), El Niño, and surface temperatures in the Indian Ocean, all of which can vary from one year to another due to variations in patterns of atmospheric and oceanic circulation. The rainy season is a function of the southern migration of the ITCZ and corresponds to the warmest months of the year.

Inter-annual variability in wet-season rainfall in Mozambique is very high, particularly in the central and southern regions, often with negative effects on rain-fed agriculture. The severe droughts of 1982-83 and 1991-92, which spread famine across most of the southern Africa region, including southern and central Mozambique, were related to strong El Niño events. The catastrophic flooding that occurred during 2000 and 2001 was strongly linked to La Niña conditions, coupled with destructive cyclones occurring during the same period. This variability causes severe stress on many sectors across the country. Floods and droughts are common occurrences in the central and southern regions, often occurring during the same year. Mozambique’s long coastline facing the Indian Ocean places the country in the path of increasingly more intense cyclones.

Increasingly intense tropical cyclones, torrential rains and rising sea levels threaten cities and villages along the country's coast, where 60 percent of Mozambicans live. Seven of the 11 major cities are located along the seaside. The impacts of climate change are being felt daily in these coastal cities — which is why their mayors have taken adaption into their own hands as part of a growing movement of mayors who are stepping up their game to fight climate change.

Mozambique is one of Africa’s most vulnerable countries to climate change. Poverty, weak institutional development and frequent extreme weather events make Mozambique especially vulnerable. Climaterelated hazards such as droughts, floods and cyclones are occurring with increasing frequency, which is having a cumulative and devastating impact on a population that is insufficiently prepared. Central Mozambique is projected to experience recurrent agricultural losses as a result of droughts, floods, and uncontrolled bush fires. The densely populated coastal lowlands will be increasingly affected by severe erosion, saltwater intrusion, loss of vital infrastructure and the spread of diseases such as malaria, cholera, and influenza. Changing rainfall patterns will lead to a decrease of soil water recharge, impacting ground water resources and the water table in wells. Reduction of Mozambique’s transboundary river flows will decrease the availability of surface water.

Mozambique ranked 142 out of 178 countries in the ND-GAIN index1 (2013), which is worse than in 2010 (rank 137). It ranks 36th on vulnerability and 144th on readiness – meaning that it is vulnerable to, yet unready to combat climate change effects. Vulnerability measures the exposure, sensitivity, and ability to cope with climate related hazards by accounting for the overall status of food, water, environment, health, and infrastructure within a country. Readiness targets those portions of the economy, governance and society that affect the speed and efficiency of adaptation.

Cyclone Idai may be one of the worst weather disasters ever recorded in the southern hemisphere, U.N. experts said, with Mozambique suffering the brunt of the storm. Idai tore across Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe in mid-March 2019, leaving behind a trail of devastation, including more than 350 people killed, hundreds missing, and hundreds of thousands homeless. Mozambique's death toll exceeded 200 Tuesday, President Filipe Nyusi said, after saying earlier the final number of dead could top 1,000. Officials say the cyclone created an "inland ocean" across the country. In Zimbabwe, the death toll stood at 98. One local government official says bodies from Zambia had been flowing on the river into neighboring Mozambique.

Cyclone Kenneth arrived late 25 april 2019, just six weeks after Cyclone Idai. Kenneth, packing the power of a Category 4 hurricane, tore into a region that had never seen such a fierce storm during the age of satellite observation. Serious flooding raged on 28 April 2019 in parts of northern Mozambique hit by Cyclone Kenneth three days earlier, with water waist-high in places, after the government urged people to immediately seek higher ground. Hundreds of thousands of people were at risk with more rain forecast for days ahead. Kenneth arrived just six weeks after Cyclone Idai ripped into central Mozambique and killed more than 600 people with flooding. The new storm's remnants could dump twice as much rain as Idai, the UN World Program has said. As much as 250 millimetres (9 inches), or about a quarter of the average annual rainfall for the region, had been forecast over the next few days.

This was the first time in recorded history that the southern African country has been hit by two cyclones in one season, again raising concerns about climate change.

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Page last modified: 28-04-2019 18:50:54 ZULU