La Nina triggers record number of cyclones

The 2008 cyclone season in the southwestern Indian Ocean has recorded the highest number of cyclones in possibly a decade because of the climate phenomenon called La Niña, according to meteorologists.

"The tropical cyclone Jokwe, which is expected to hit the northern coast of Mozambique on 8 March will be the twelfth this season," said Mussa Mustafa, head of Mozambique's Meteorological Institute (INAM). "We normally record an average of nine cyclones per season."

La Niña is characterised by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean, recorded every three to four years, which cause a ripple effect felt across the globe, making wet regions wetter and dry ones drier.

The higher frequency of the cyclones could also partly be linked to climate change, said Mnikeli Ndabambi, senior manager for forecasting for the South African Weather Service. Scientists have warned that global warming could amplify the existing natural climate variability and its associated weather phenomena.

Jokwe, which has now moved past the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar is expected to cause moderate to heavy rain in the coastal districts of Nampula and Zambezia provinces in Mozambique, said Mustafa. "There are no plans to evacuate coastal residents, about ships plying down the [Mozambique] Channel face more of a threat right now."

Zambezia and Nampula provinces had been affected by heavy flooding earlier in 2008. Mustafa said since the coastal areas were likely to be affected and there was no risk of flooding as the water would drain into the ocean.

Ivan, the last cyclone to hit southwestern Indian Ocean, killed at least 84 people and affected more than 322,000 in Madagascar in February, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

jk/ he/oa