El Niño Reaches Mpala

On Saturday, 4th May, 2024, the Princess Hilda bridge crossing the Ewaso Ng’iro river in Laikipia County flooded, due to the ongoing El Niño event. The last time this occurred was in 1996. As a result, vehicles were unable to get to Mpala using the most direct route. 

Researchers and staff had to take alternate routes to arrive at Mpala Research Centre safely. Those routes include flying directly to Mpala, driving up and around, which takes about four hours, or parking on the other side of the bridge and walking over it.

A damaged road after a bridge.
Damage to the road caused by the flooding.
Mpala staff clearing debris from the bridge.
Mpala staff clearing Debris.

Once Mpala staff cleared the debris from the bridge, the work began to repair the damaged road. Throughout the week, team members worked diligently to ensure staff, researchers, and students could get to Mpala the following week. As of Sunday, 12th May, the road was operational.

Mpala staff, with the help of neighbours, fixing the road.
Mpala staff, with the help of neighbours, fixing the road.
The completed road repair.
The completed road repair.

The sheer amount of water that filled the river is a stark reminder of how extreme weather conditions have become. Climate change is real. Last August, the Ewaso Ng’iro river by Mpala was dry; nine months later it was flooded. In 2024, Mpala received almost double the amount of rain compared to 2023, approximately 35cm between April 1 and May 4, 2024 and approximately 19cm during the same period in 2023. As a research centre, we are committed to studying the effects that these weather conditions have on our surrounding ecology while supporting our community and those around us to adjust to shifting extremes.

The dried up Ewaso Ng'iro river in 2023.
The Ewaso Ng’iro river during the 2023 dry season. Photo credit: Fred Kiboko.

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