Wet periods along the East Africa Coast and the extreme wet spell event of October 1997

Journal of Kenya Meteorological Society


Volume 2:1:6

Wet periods along the East Africa Coast and the extreme wet spell event of October 1997

R. E. Okoola*, P. Camberlin**, J. M. Ininda*

*Department of Meteorology, University of Nairobi, Kenya **Centre de Recherches de Climatologie, Université de Bourgogne/CNRS, Dijon, France


Pierre Camberlin

Centre de Recherches de Climatologie, Université de Bourgogne, Sciences Gabriel

6 Bd Gabriel, 21000 DIJON, FRANCE

E-mail : This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

(Manuscript received 13 November 2007, in final form 25 January 2008)


Extreme wet spells affect the East Africa Coast (EAC) during March to May (long rains) and October to December (short rains). While these spells are less frequent during the short rains, some of the most extreme wet spells occur at this time of the year. The present study examined the general characteristics of the wet spells during the short rains. A detailed study of the anomalous wet spell event of October 1997, with record rainfall around Mombasa (4.0°S, 39.6°E), was also carried out. Daily rainfall for 1962-1997 and NCEP2 reanalysis data for 1979-1997 were used to study the characteristics of the wet events. A high spatial coherence is found in the rainfall over the EAC. The circulation features that were common during most of the wet events were: weakening or reversal of the east-west (Walker type) circulation over the Indian Ocean, enhanced convergence between the Northern and Southern Hemisphere trade winds and westward-moving disturbances in the low-level equatorial wind field. During the 1997 wet event, it is shown that prior to the heavy rainfall event a ridge of high pressure, on the eastern coast of southern Africa, intensified and propagated eastwards leading to the strengthening of moist easterlies reaching the EAC. The zonal wind component along longitude 40°E showed shears in the flows that were associated with the development of the Mozambique Channel low/trough in the lower troposphere round which southerlies surged northwards. These southerlies converged with the easterlies near the EAC. Thus, the warm and wet air from the east interacted with the relatively cold and mainly continental air from the south generating instability at the EAC.

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