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» 18.03.2009 - UN send mission to assess Sahrawi refugees situation
» 15.05.2008 - Sahrawi refugee children in dire need of food
» 15.09.2006 - EU donates €10 million to Western Sahara refugees
» 10.03.2005 - Morocco steps up aid to its ally, Niger
» 26.05.2004 - North and West Africa face full-scale locust plague
» 23.03.2004 - Locusts move from Mauritania to Morocco, Algeria
» 24.02.2004 - Locust plague out of control in Mauritania, Sahara
» 23.10.2003 - Locusts to spread from Mauritania to Western Sahara

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Western Sahara
Agriculture - Nutrition | Science - Education | Environment - Nature

Heavy rains flood Western Sahara desert

Floods in Awssard-Tichla (Western Sahara) on 22 October 2003.
Photo by FAO.

© FAO / afrol News
afrol News, 1 November
- The southern part of the desert territory of Western Sahara has experienced the heaviest rains in several years, causing wadis (temporal rivers) and temporal lakes to be created. Unique pictures from the territory show the flooded desert.

Heavy rain showers in late October flooded the southern part of Western Sahara, a sparsely populated desert territory occupied by Morocco.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reports of the "unusually heavy rains from Senegal to Morocco" on 21 and 22 October.

On 21 October, satellite photos show that the torrential rains covered the entire Western Sahara territory, except for the southern-most part of the coast - or the coastal area south of Dakhla. On 22 October, heavy rains covered all Western Sahara except the northern-most forth. Also the Saharawi refugee camps in western Algeria had their parts of the showers.

The two-day rains were observed to be unusually heavy on several spots, thus causing extensive flooding. Flooding mainly followed the deserts temporary river plains, or wadis, but also caused temporary lakes to be created. There are no reports of the floods harming local residents or human constructions.

In the southern area of Awssard and Tichla, in Western Sahara's interior, some 100 kilometres north of Mauritania, observers from FAO were able to document the flooding (see picture), which only occurs once a decade.

These temporary floods are crucial for the fragile ecosystem of the desert area as they fill up ground water basins that provide water in the normal times of water scarcity. The temporal rains also are crucial for the flowering of the robust desert vegetation, whose seeds may have resisted drought and heat for several years.

Rains are very seldom in the territory, which belongs to the driest spots of Africa. Mostly, only local showers reach isolated areas of Western Sahara. The territory's capital, El Aaiun, located in the extreme north, has the highest annual precipitation average, although the city also is located within the desert.

Some climatic scientist claim to observe that the Sahara desert indeed is slowly moving northwards due to global warming. This, they hold, could mean that the southern part of Western Sahara could soon experience a dry savannah climate, while the desert in future could encompass Morocco and Spain.

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