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International Year of Deserts and Desertification 

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) has designated 2006 the International Year of Deserts and Desertification. 

Drought is common and part of natural climate variability. It can strike all continents but it is the countries with least resources which suffer the most. 

One of the tasks of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services is to monitor the onset and evolution of drought conditions, issue advisories and warnings and advise of ways to mitigate their impacts. 

Most countries of the Great Horn of Africa currently face drought and related problems. The Kenya Meteorological Department predicts that lack of rainfall could extend the present drought for a further 12 months. This would increase famine and undermine the countrys energy, tourism and agriculture sectors.   

The drought in Spain in 2005 was the worst on record. As the drought enters its second year, the National Meteorological Institute says there are no signs of relief and new water-management mechanisms have been put in place. 

Spains last severe drought lasted about five years in the 1990s. 

In Zimbabwe, the Department of Meteorological Services reported exceptionally low rainfall in January, raising fears of drought. 

In the United Kingdom, the Met Office has predicted an unusually dry winter, especially in eastern and south-eastern England, which still have significant groundwater deficits following an exceptionally dry 2005. Calls have been made for a drought strategy in case of a dry spring or summer. 

In eastern Australia, areas experiencing rainfall deficiencies are persisting or expanding slightly. In parts of Queensland and New South Wales, December rainfall was less than half the long-term average. Dry conditions in eastern Australia in 2005 were probably the most severe since the 1940s. The Bureau of Meteorology has said that 2005 was the countrys hottest year since records began in 1910, with temperatures, on average, 1.09C higher than normal. 

In the USA, the National Weather Service has predicted that drought conditions are expected to occur, persist or intensify in a significant number of areas.

WMO participates in the work of the UNCCD. WMO assists decision-makers and farmers at national, regional and local levels to manage the risks which accompany drought. Activities include the application of climatic data for desertification control, drought preparedness, management of sustainable agriculture and drought monitoring.

WMO and the UNCCD Secretariat are organizing an "International Workshop on Climate and Land Degradation" in Arusha, Tanzania from 11-15 December 2006 to bring together experts in the area of climate and land degradation presenting state-of-the-art papers, real world applications and innovative techniques for combating land degradation, and offering recommendations for effectively using weather and climate information for sustainable land management practices.





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