Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Victoria Falls Dries Drastically After Worst Drought in a Century

Popular
(L) Rushing waters of Victoria Falls at Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, Zimbabwe pictured in January 2018. Edwin Remsberg / VW PICS / UIG / Getty Images (R) Stark contrast of Victory Falls is seen on Nov. 13, 2019 after drought has caused a decline. ZINYANGE AUNTONY / AFP / Getty Images

The climate crisis is already threatening the Great Barrier Reef. Now, another of the seven natural wonders of the world may be in its crosshairs ‚ÄĒ Southern Africa's iconic Victoria Falls.


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.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A climate activist holds a victory sign in Washington, DC. after President Obama announced that he would reject the Keystone XL Pipeline proposal on November 6, 2015. Mark Wilson / Getty Images

By Jake Johnson

The Supreme Court late Monday upheld a federal judge's rejection of a crucial permit for Keystone XL and blocked the Trump administration's attempt to greenlight construction of the 1,200-mile crude oil project, the third such blow to the fossil fuel industry in a day‚ÄĒcoming just hours after the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the court-ordered shutdown of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Read More Show Less
A forest fire in Yakutsk in eastern Siberia on June 2, 2020. Yevgeny Sofroneyev / TASS via Getty Images

Once thought too frozen to burn, Siberia is now on fire and spewing carbon after enduring its warmest June ever, according to CNN.

Read More Show Less
The Colima fir tree's distribution has been reduced to the area surrounding the Nevado de Colima volcano. Agustín del Castillo

By Agustín del Castillo

For 20 years, the Colima fir tree (Abies colimensis) has been at the heart of many disputes to conserve the temperate forests of southern Jalisco, a state in central Mexico. Today, the future of this tree rests upon whether the area's avocado crops will advance further and whether neighboring communities will unite to protect it.

Read More Show Less
Independent environmental certifications offer a better indicator of a product's eco credentials, including labor conditions for workers involved in production. Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Jeanette Cwienk

This summer's high street fashions have more in common than styles and colors. From the pink puff-sleeved dream going for just ‚ā¨19.99 ($22.52) at H&M, to Zara's elegant ‚ā¨12.95 ($14.63) halter-neck dress, clothing stores are alive with cheap organic cotton.

"Sustainable" collections with aspirational own-brand names like C&A's "Wear the change," Zara's "join life" or H&M's "CONSCIOUS" are offering cheap fashion and a clean environmental conscience. Such, at least, is the message. But is it really that simple?

Read More Show Less
The CDC is warning that people with type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, whole organ transplants, and women who are pregnant could experience more severe outcomes if they contract COVID-19. LeoPatrizi / Getty Images
Read More Show Less

More than 200 Indigenous Nations demonstrated against the Dakota Access Pipeline in Canon Ball, ND on Sept. 2, 2016. Joe Brusky / Flickr

A federal judge ruled Monday that the controversial Dakota Access pipeline must be shut down and drained of oil until a full environmental review of the project is completed.

Read More Show Less

Trending

The Yersinia pestis bacteria causes bubonic plague in animals and humans. Illustration based on light microscope image At 1000x. BSIP / UIG Via Getty Images

A herdsman in the Chinese autonomous region of Inner Mongolia was diagnosed with the bubonic plague Sunday, The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less