Somalian 2011 Famine May Have Been Caused by Global Warming: Scientists

First Posted: Mar 16, 2013 01:37 PM EDT

Low levels of rainfall in Somalia in 2011 which resulted in tens of thousands of famine-related death may have been caused by climate change, according to a new study.

British weather scientists say that close observation of weather patterns in Somalia and elsewhere in East Africa between 2010 and 2011 showed that short rains failed in late 2010 because of the natural effects of the weather pattern La Nina.

The peer reviewed study will appear in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. Senait Gebregziabher, the Somalia country director for the aid group Oxfam, said climate change is increasing humanitarian needs, according to the Associated Press.

"In the coming decades, unless urgent action is taken to slash greenhouse gas emissions, temperatures in East Africa will continue to rise and rainfall patterns will change. This will create major problems for food production and availability," Gebregziabher said.

Global warming is caused by the burning of fossil fuels -- coal, oil and natural gas -- which sends heat-trapping gases, such as carbon dioxide, into the air, changing the climate, scientists say.

"If you miss one of the two rainy seasons we have a very severe drought. The other indicator is that there is a rise in temperature," he said. "This all negatively impacts the livelihood of the people. Most of Somalis depend mostly on pastoral production."

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