Tanzania’s ‘forgotten’ cyclones and concerns for the future

Following the rare event of a tropical cyclone making landfall in Tanzania in April, African SWIFT and FCFA scientists unpacked new research recounting the devastating impacts of previous tropical cyclones from 1872 and 1952.

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A cyclone, known as Jobo, made landfall near Dar es Salaam in late April. By this point it had weakened to a tropical depression and impacts were, thankfully, minimal.

Land-falling tropical cyclones are rare in Tanzania so past events are outside the memory of most. It had even been suggested that Cyclone Kenneth, which occurred in 2019, was the first tropical cyclone to make landfall in Tanzania. The largest impacts of cyclone Kenneth were felt further south where at least 38 lives were lost and almost 35,000 homes were damaged or destroyed.

However, we recently published research which recounts the events of two tropical cyclones which made land-fall in Tanzania, in 1872 and 1952. Using eyewitness accounts from news articles, the British Online Archives and meteorological observations, we show what a devastating impact these storms had.

We hope that by documenting these cyclones in Tanzania, it will encourage further investigation into the drivers of tropical cyclones in the southwest Indian Ocean which, to date, have received little research attention.