Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Current Drought in Mexico

I feel a little parochial for not noticing this before, but the recent drought in Texas and the US Southwest extends over much of northern Mexico and is having an even bigger impact in that country: it's causing a food crisis in the less developed nation. The map above is from the North American Drought Monitor page at NOAA and shows the severity of the drought as of December 31st.  It uses some scale that isn't clear to me and isn't the PDSI.  Still the general idea seems clear enough.

This came to my attention because of a New York Times article:
A drought that a government official called the most severe Mexico had ever faced has left two million people without access to water and, coupled with a cold snap, has devastated cropland in nearly half of the country.

Reports that the Tarahumara were killing themselves in despair over starvation, later proven false, spurred residents of Mexico City to collect food and clothing donations.
The government in the past week has authorized $2.63 billion in aid, including potable water, food and temporary jobs for the most affected areas, rural communities in 19 of Mexico’s 31 states. But officials warned that no serious relief was expected for at least another five months, when the rainy season typically begins in earnest.
Among the more seriously affected communities are tribal areas of the Tarahumara indigenous community in the Sierra Madre, in the north. Known for endurance running and self-reliance, the Tarahumara are among Mexico’s poorest citizens. When false reports of a mass suicide brought on by hunger surfaced recently, journalists and aid organizations poured in to shed light on the situation.

“I think it has really become extreme poverty,” says Isaac Oxenhaut, national aid coordinator for the Mexican Red Cross. Mr. Oxenhaut recently visited the Indian communities where, he said, the land was too dry to grow any crops the Tarahumara usually depend on for their livelihood. “They don’t have anywhere to harvest absolutely anything,” he added.
You may recall from Thursday's post that analysis of the AR4 climate model runs (ie the ones used in the IPCC's 2007 report) suggests that Mexico is going to get absolutely pasted with drought in the future:

I tend to the view that regional details may not be very accurate in present climate models, but certainly if Mexico is experiencing a "most severe ever" drought event at the moment, that is consistent with the prediction.