The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Victoria Falls Dries Drastically After Worst Drought in a Century
The falls are located on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. They are also called Mosi-oa-Tunya, which means "the smoke that thunders" in the indigenous Lozi language, according to AccuWeather. But contrasting photographs taken by Reuters in January and December 2019 show how a severe drought has shrunk the falls into something closer to the steam that whispers.
Zambian President Edgar Chagwa Lungu also tweeted images of the dried-out falls in October.
"These pictures of Victoria Falls are a stark reminder of what climate change is doing to our environment and our livelihood," he wrote at the time. "It is with no doubt that developing countries like Zambia are the most impacted by climate change and the least able to afford its consequences."
The falls usually decline somewhat during the dry season, but the worst drought to bake the region in a century has reduced their water flow to the lowest level in 25 years, Reuters reported. This has led to concerns that the attraction that draws millions of visitors to Zambia and Zimbabwe could dry up all together.
"In previous years, when it gets dry, it's not to this extent. This (is) our first experience of seeing it like this," Dominic Nyambe, who sells crafts to tourists on the Zambian side of the falls, told Reuters. "It affects us, because ... clients ... can see on the Internet (that the falls are low) .... We don't have so many tourists."
The dwindling falls isn't the only way drought has impacted the two countries. Both Zambia and Zimbabwe rely on hydropower from the Kariba Dam, located on the Zambezi River that also feeds the falls. The reduced water flow has led to power cuts. In southern Africa overall, around 45 million people require food aid because of crop failures.
AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jim Andrews said that it was unclear if this year's drought was caused by climate change. And hydrologist Harald Kling, who is an expert on the Zambezi River, cautioned Reuters it isn't always possible to blame the climate crisis for one dry year.
"If they become more frequent, then you can start saying, ok, this may be climate change," he said.
But that does seem to be the case for the Zambezi basin. While climate models predicted more droughts for the region, Kling said their recent frequency has still been "surprising." The last drought was only three years ago.
While this year's reduced flow is particularly dramatic, Elisha Moyo, Principal Climate Change Researcher at Zimbabwe's Ministry of Environment, Climate and Tourism, told BBC News in November that lower-flow years were becoming more frequent. This year, the cascade's average flow has been reduced by nearly 50 percent.
"Who knows maybe one year there will be no falls completely, no water," Moyo said.
- 55 Elephants Have Died in 2 Months From Unprecedented ... ›
- Taps Run Dry in Zimbabwe's Capital City Leaving 2 Million People ... ›
- Zimbabwe's Access to Water Is in Peril - EcoWatch ›
- These Trees Survived California's Drought and That's Giving ... ›
- Climate Change Could Bring Drought to Amazon, Greater Rain to ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Tara Lohan
5 Biggest Pesticide Companies Are Making Billions From 'Highly Hazardous' Chemicals, Investigation Finds
By Paul Brown
Virtually all the world's demand for electricity to run transport and to heat and cool homes and offices, as well as to provide the power demanded by industry, could be met by renewable energy by mid-century.
By George Citroner
- Exposure to phthalates was associated with autism traits in boys (but not girls) between ages 3 and 4 years, according to a new study.
- However, the risk was diminished in women who took folic acid during their pregnancy.
- This study is the first to find that folic acid supplements provide a protective effect from phthalates.
Exposure in the womb to a group of endocrine-disrupting chemicals called phthalates was associated with autism traits in boys (but not girls) between ages 3 and 4 years, according to a new study.