The Drought and Humanitarian Crisis in Central and Southwest Asia: A Climate Perspective

Agrawala, Shardul; Barlow, Mathew; Cullen, Heidi; Lyon, Bradfield

A persistent multi-year drought in Central and Southwest Asia has affected close to 60 million people as of November 2001. Chronic political instability in many parts of this region and the recent military action in Afghanistan have further complicated the situation. This report provides a climatic perspective on the severity and spatial extent of the ongoing drought and its social and economic impacts. The target audience for this report includes national, regional and international policymakers, humanitarian relief agencies, members of the research community as well as others with a general interest in Central and Southwest Asia and the causes and consequences of the persistent drought in the region. The report discusses underlying climatic mechanisms that might explain the causes for the persistent drought, and presents seasonal climate forecasts and their implications for the region.

The principal conclusions of this report are as follows: Central and Southwest Asia represents the largest region of persistent drought over the past
three years anywhere in the world. From a regional perspective, the ongoing drought is the most severe in the past several decades. Significant shortfalls in precipitation have led to widespread social and economic impacts, particularly in Iran, Afghanistan, Western Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Agriculture, animal husbandry, water resources, and public health have been particularly stressed throughout the region. Preliminary analysis suggests that the drought is related to large-scale variations in the climate across the Indian and Pacific Oceans, including the recent “La Niña” in the eastern Pacific. Current seasonal climate forecasting skill in Central and Southwest Asia is modest. IRI seasonal forecasts for the period November 2001-April 2002 are consequently for climatology or equal likelihood of above-, near-, or below-normal precipitation in the region. While not indicative of any pronounced trends, a climatology forecast is less dire than one indicating enhanced probabilities for below normal precipitation.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
International Research Institute for Climate and Society
International Research Institute for Climate Prediction
Published Here
May 20, 2010