According to a July 29 2022 report from the International Food Security and Nutrition Working Group, the worst drought conditions in 70 years across the Horn of Africa have more than 16 million people coping with a shortage of drinking water. Yields of key crops are down for the third year in a row, milk production is in decline, and more than 9 million livestock animals have been lost due to a lack of water and suitable forage land. At the same time, regional conflicts, COVID-19, locusts, and the Ukraine War have caused price spikes and shortages of basic commodities. An estimated 18 to 21 million people now “face high levels of acute food insecurity” in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia.

These animations depict root zone and surface soil moisture observations and forecasts from the NASA Hydrological Forecast and Analysis System (NHyFAS). Reds depict areas with soil moisture percentages below the average, while blues reflect areas that are above average (often due to passing storms). The first 27 seconds of the animation show soil moisture from August 2020 through June 2022. The final 10 seconds show forecasts for July through December 2022, including the next rainy season.

Root zone moisture is critical for long term crop growth. New seedlings are mostly dependent on surface water, but then as plants grow and sink deeper roots, they are sustained by moisture in the top layer of the soil.