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The Limpopo River Basin
Climate and Weather
 Principles of Climate and Weather
 Hydrologic Cycle
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 Climate of the Limpopo Basin
 Climate Change
Water Quality
Ecology and Biodiversity
Sub-basin Summaries



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Drought is a major challenge in the Limpopo River basin, having an effect on and, affecting availability and distribution of water for agriculture, industry and other major water uses.

Definitions for Various Drought Types

Meteorological drought is a reduction in rainfall compared with the average over a specified period. A drought is said to occur when a large area receives rainfall less than 75% of normal for an extended period.

Agricultural drought is inadequate supply of the moisture required by a crop during each different growth stage, resulting in impaired growth and reduced yields.

Hydrological drought is the impact of a reduction in rainfall on surface and underground water resources that reduces the supply of water for irrigation, hydro-electrical power generation, and other household and industrial uses.

Socio-economic drought relates to the impact of drought on human activities, including both indirect and direct impacts on agricultural production and the wider economy. 

Source: INGC/ FEWS NET Mind 2003

The frequent occurrence of El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomena complicates the expected rainfall pattern that is normally controlled by the movement of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) (IDRC 2008).

Economic development in developing countries is currently threatened by weather-related disasters such as floods and droughts (World Water Assessment Programme 2009). Water shortages can seriously harm the economy of a country or region, con­straining development and reducing economic growth as financial and hydrological resources are expended to counter the drought. Multi-year droughts can have a lasting legacy, resulting in long-term suffering for agriculturally dependent rural communities and reducing national and regional growth rates significantly.

The map below shows satellite-based measurements of vegetation as an indicator of water stress and drought occurrence in 2007.

Satellite-based measurements of vegetation as an indicator of drought from 2007 (see description below).
Source: NASA GIMMS Group at Goddard Space Flight Center 2007
( click to enlarge )

Drought in Southern Africa 2007

Hot, dry weather from January through March 2007 wilted crops in southern Africa. The severe drought produced near-record temperatures that, combined with a lack of rainfall, caused extensive crop damage, particularly in western crop areas, reported the United States Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service. In South Africa, the anticipated yield from the corn crop dropped from ten million tons in December to six million tons in April because farmers couldn’t plant in the dry conditions and many of the crops that were planted wilted in the dry heat. The last South African drought of this magnitude occurred in 1992.

The impact of the drought on vegetation throughout southern Africa is illustrated in this image. The image shows vegetation conditions in March 2007 compared to conditions during the average March between 1999 and 2006 as measured by the SPOT satellite. Brown areas show where plants were less thick or where fewer plants grew than average. Green areas, by contrast, indicate that vegetation was thicker and more lush than average.

Source: NASA Earth Observatory 2010



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