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Food shortages grip North Korea as country faces worst drought in decades

By Eric Leister, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
May 17, 2019, 8:33:50 AM EDT

There are growing fears of major food shortages across North Korea as a building drought and a recent poor harvest have affected the region.

A lack of rainfall across much of North Korea so far this year as led to drought conditions, which may worsen as heat waves build during the early summer.

The Korean Central News Agency reported on Wednesday that the country was in the midst of its worst drought in nearly four decades.

AP Korea 5/15

In this May 6, 2019, photo, North Korea's Kaepoong town is seen behind a North Korean military guard post, bottom, from the unification observatory in Paju, South Korea. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)


The agency stated that rainfall averaged 54.4 mm (2.1 inches) across the country since the start of the year, the lowest such value since 1982.

The winter and early spring months are normally the dry season across North Korea; however, rainfall has averaged less than 50 percent of what is considered normal so far this year.

The country typically records about half of its normal yearly rainfall during the months of July and August. This rainfall is essential for agriculture across the country throughout the entire year.

The United Nation's World Food Programme estimates more than 10 million people are suffering from severe food shortages, and that number may continue to grow, according to the BBC.

Extreme weather over the past year caused a poor 2018 harvest and followed up with a weak harvest this spring.

The country has endured a prolonged drought, deadly heat wave and extreme flooding within the past 12 months.

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While the outlook for rainfall looks better in the coming weeks, it will take several months of normal to above-normal rainfall to erase the current drought conditions.

AccuWeather.com long-range meteorologists are predicting that the upcoming summer will once again feature intense heat waves, which may last even longer than last summer's deadly heat.

"The most intense heat will occur during the first half of the season, but late-season heat waves are also possible," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls.

"Dry weather is likely for the early and late summer across the Korean Peninsula, with any downpours being confined to the middle of the season," said Nicholls.

North Korean officials have also blamed the recent food shortages on economic sanctions that have been imposed after the country attempted several missile tests. The country has appealed to the international community to offer aid for the millions affected by the current food shortage.

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