Swarmed: The locust outbreak in East Africa is the worst the region has seen in the past 25 years. Source: Time

Locust outbreak threatening food security in East Africa; Somalia declares national emergency

The Horn of Africa (eastern region of the continent) is battling a serious locust outbreak, the worst the region has seen in the past 25 years. Somalia has declared a national emergency. The outbreak, described by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) as ‘extremely alarming’, threatens livelihoods and food security in a region that has already been grappling with the effects of floods, landslides, droughts and cyclones brought on by climate change. The UN has warned this outbreak will continue to develop in lands as far as India, which has already been dealing with the problem since last year, especially in Rajasthan.

The region has been hit with unprecedented heavy rain since October 2019, which, scientists believe has fuelled the swarm. The extreme weather is a result of an ocean circulation pattern known as the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), which affects climatic conditions stretching from Africa to Australia. It is described as “an irregular oscillation of sea surface temperatures in which the western Indian Ocean becomes alternately warmer (positive phase) and then colder (negative phase) than the eastern part of the ocean”. In 2019, the positive phase of the IOD was the strongest ever in the past six decades, leading to the extreme weather in Africa as well as the bushfires in Australia.

Rapid weather changes increases risk of flu: Study

Rapid weather changes because of climate change is likely to increase the risk of flu, especially in highly populated areas, a new study published in the journal Environment Research Letters found. It was previously believed that low temperature, especially in the winter months, coupled with humidity, create an environment conducive to the flu. But the 2017-18 flu season was the warmest on record and also the deadliest. Scientists found that extreme weather fluctuations in the autumn months kick-started the flu epidemic, which then snowballed into the denser areas such as big cities.

According to the study, these weather fluctuations in the autumn months will continue to increase in a warming climate, pushing up the risk of the influenza epidemic by 20%-50% in highly populated regions, such as Europe later in the 21st century.

Study finds direct link between Arctic warming and tropical weather patterns

The effects of rapidly melting Arctic sea ice are being felt as far away as the tropics, a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found. The study recognised a pattern that linked the decline in sea ice since the 1990s with increasing warm cycles in the Central Pacific Ocean. Why this is significant is that the warming ocean then goes on to affect drought, flood and hurricane patterns across the world.

According to the study, the Arctic Ocean has warmed up to such a degree in the past two decades that sea-surface air has been rising into the stratosphere to form ‘convective towers’. This air, when it falls back into the equatorial Pacific, intensifies east-west trade winds that push warm water towards Asia and Oceana, which in turn creates the Central Pacific El Niño, a key driver of weather patterns across the world.

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