With warnings of a cataclysmic El Niño event rife on Kenyan social media, CM adds a few comments and links to the conversation:
First, the official Kenyan Meteorological Department advisory. Contrary to some media reporting:
- It does not predict an El Niño impact in September but in October to December. (Though there was earlier reporting of a general international warning for July-September impact.)
- It does not predict the “worst” El Niño ever. It explicitly says that rain intensity is not likely to reach that of 1997.
- It predicts higher than normal rainfall but it makes clear this is a prediction based on best models not an infallible prophesy. The statement uses the word “likely” 7 times.
- Not all of the predicted impacts are negative. It is an ‘advisory’ rather than a ‘warning’ per se. “While the heavy rains expected may cause disruption, some sectors may reap maximum benefits”. E.g. there may be a positive impact on agriculture in arid areas while reservoirs and aquifers will be replenished improving water resources and hydro-electric production.
- Most significantly the advisory puts a paragraph in bold type:
“Note: In the minds of many Kenyans, a mention of El-Nino occurrence reflects back to the 1997/98 kind of rainfall patterns in October-November-December period. However, it is also important to take note that not all El-Ninos result in what was experienced in 1997/98 in terms of heavy rainfall in the country. Subsequent to 1997/98, there were other El-Nino events in 2002/03, 2006/07 and 2009/10. To ordinary people, these went unnoticed because their impacts were not as that of 1997/98 El-Nino because of other factors.”
Second, the Met Dept press release on the short rains (Oct-Dec). This is helpful as it is more detailed than the advisory and shows the variation in impact across the country specifying exactly which regions they expect to get higher than average rainfall and which will probably be around normal.
Third, we mustn’t forget there are many flooding events every year which have little or no connection with El Nino. E.g. the terrible flooding in Malawi and Mozambique early this year (pictured above) which probably killed a slightly higher number of people than the 1997 floods in Kenya (read about the Samaritan Purse response and how you can still give via UNICEF).
All this is not at all to diminish the seriousness of the warnings and the need for care and preparedness in areas of housing, transport and healthcare. We should thank God we have such science and warnings while at the same time be very troubled at the potential danger and trauma to vulnerable people; praying that the effects are limited and at the same time working hard to address short and long term infrastructure and land-use issues [prayer and work].
At the same time, the name of the Pacific Ocean event – El Niño – is interesting (even if coincidental) in it’s connection to Christ and Christmas. As argued before elsewhere, rain is not only a part of the hydrological system (Ecclesiastes 1), it is preaching Christ to us:
- Rain comes from heaven – top-down, from God, passively received. In Isaiah 55:10-11 rain is explicitly likened to the Word God, not returning empty but succeeding in the mission for which it was sent, that is to bring life.
- Rain comes in grace to the undeserving, sent to the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:45).
- The seasonal rain, ‘at just the right time’, is a longed-for, vital, wonderful blessing (Deut. 28:12), a picture of the refreshing rule of the perfect King (2 Sam. 23:3-4; Psalm 72:6-7).
- When the doors of heaven shut and the rain is withheld that is a terrible curse (Deut. 28:23), connected to the drought/withdrawal of the Word (1 Kings 17; Amos 8:11).
- The main work of rain is to come in gentleness to give life but it can also come as a flood to destroy (Gen. 6-7). Those great flood waters are at the same time the means of judgement and of salvation (1 Peter 3:21).
The reign of The Child
Isaiah 9 speaks of the day that a child will be born to us. And he will take the government on his shoulders and he will reign. In the days of his reign nothing will harm or destroy for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11).
600 years later, at just the right time, the child was born to us. And he took all our sin on his shoulders, and he was crowned with a crown of thorns, and he went under the flood waters of death, and he defeated death, and rose again to reign forever, as the indestructible Life. And now he sits on the throne (Rev. 5). And every flood and war and famine and plague and earthquake and blood moon is unleashed by Him (Rev. 6). For those who are against Him there is no comfort in this but for those who are His there is great comfort in his sovereignty and even more in his promise – that they are eternally secure and that one day there will be neither thirst nor flood but the Shepherd-Lamb will lead them to springs of living water and God will wipe away ever tear from their eyes (Rev. 7).