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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Is El Nino the bogeyman to blame for South Africa's extreme weather woes?

In the last week, South Africa has been hit by relentless extreme weather phenomena such as extreme rains, floods and even a landspout in Inanda near Durban which many had first believed was a tornado.

In KwaZulu-Natal, recent flooding has left four people dead due flooding, with an unconfirmed number of others people drowned.

The Western Cape has also been lashed by floods which left many residents without their homes. But what could be the cause of such devastation?

Scientists around the world have been sounding the alarm about this year’s El Niño which they speculate could break all records.

According to the South African Weather Service (SAWS), because of its propensity to impact global air circulation, the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is regarded as one of the most significant climate phenomena.

According to studies, El Niño and La Niña are the warm and chilly stages of a periodic climatic trend in the tropical Pacific.

Through continuous monitoring of the ENSO system, local and global specialists have produced evidence that a moderate-to-strong El Niño is emerging this year.

The SAWS cited Dr Neville Sweijd, the senior researcher for the council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

Dr Sweijd stressed the importance of early planning for the probable effects of El Niño in South Africa and nearby nations.

Dr Sweijd expressed concern that this year’s data showed global average sea surface temperatures reaching historic highs in May and June.

“Already, records for June air temperatures are being broken in the Northern Hemisphere. This means that the El Niño is likely to be unusually strong,” he said.

“In the past, around 2015 and 2016, the impact was severe and although we cannot say yet that this season will be equally affected, we must pre-empt the potential impact. It is quite unpredictable by nature, but there is a general pattern that researchers in South Africa have been studying.”

As a result, SAWS anticipates above-normal rainfall for the southern coastal districts, which will raise water levels in dams and other reservoirs but may cause flash floods in flood-prone areas.

This may correspond with the recent extreme weather events. Additionally, the Seasonal Climate Watch issued by the organisation foresees an unusually above-normal months.

“The multi-model rainfall forecast indicates above-normal rainfall for most of the country during winter, from June to throughout July and August and into early spring minimum and maximum temperatures are expected to be mostly above-normal countrywide for the forecast period,” said the weather predictor.

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