Dipole: The ‘Indian Niño’ That Has Brought Devastating Drought To East Africa




By Rob Marchant in The Conversation.


A severe drought threatens millions of people in East Africa. Crop harvests are well below normal and the price of food has doubled across much of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and nearby countries.

The last major drought in the region, in 2011, caused hundreds of thousands of deaths. They are becoming more frequent and more intense – and each has a disastrous impact on the economies of nations and livelihoods of people.

So what is causing these droughts? And why are they becoming more common?

At least part of the explanation lies with a climate phenomenon known as the “Indian Ocean Dipole”. The dipole, often called the Indian Niño due to its similarity with El Niño, is not as well known as its Pacific equivalent. Indeed, it was only properly identified by a team of Japanese researchers in the late 1990s.


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