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Why locusts are descending on East Africa

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In a region where food is already scarce, billions of insects are now eating everything in sight.

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Since late 2019, East Africa and the Middle East have been experiencing their worst locust outbreaks in decades. A small locust swarm can eat more food than 35,000 people; but some locust swarms in the area have grown to over two thousand times that size. And it’s all coming right on the heels of a season of catastrophic flooding in the region.

But that isn’t a coincidence: The desert locust thrives when dry weather turns wet. And in 2018 and 2019, a series of freak weather events brought record-setting rainfall to the Middle East and East Africa. The result of all this is a region at risk of a famine, in the middle of a pandemic. And because freak weather is a hallmark of climate change, it’s also the kind of thing we can expect to happen again.

Further reading / watching:

Read Vox.com science reporter Umair Irfan’s article on the locust outbreak:
https://www.vox.com/2020/5/20/21158283/locust-plague-swarm-outbreak-africa-asia-2020

One of the things that helped prime the region for locusts was an unusually strong Indian Ocean Dipole. Watch our piece about that here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYX9ahqceAI

For more information on the locust upsurge, see the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s website:
http://www.fao.org/ag/locusts/en/info/info/986/index.html

And this FAO press conference from February helped me answer a lot of the questions in this piece:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3HEKBAack9g

Vox.com is a news website that helps you cut through the noise and understand what’s really driving the events in the headlines. Check out http://www.vox.com.

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