M(i)z-Hit-Run wrote an interesting piece the other day about the severe drought which is affecting the region she lives in (the Eastern Cape, South Africa). She didn’t go for the scientific view of Climate Change, but wrote from her point of view. What she personally sees happening, and how it affects the small rural community she lives and works in.
It got me to thinking about how climate change has affected the area I live in – the Southern Cape of South Africa. We have also been feeling the effects of a severe drought – the worst in almost 60 years, according to local sources. For most of the past year the level of the local dam which supplies our town, has hovered between 15 – 20%. What this effectively means is that the town only has water for about a month if it doesn’t rain. So severe water restrictions were put in place. In other towns close by, they did run out of water, and drinking water had to be trucked in. Thankfully, our situation never got as dire.
When we moved to our current town in 2003, we were warned of the unpredictability of the local weather. That it was a “four seasons in one day” kind of place. I can remember leaving the house dressed in layers (for taking off or putting, on depending on how the day developed) and always having a rainproof jacket or umbrella in my car. Another term which was applied to our area was “cold and wet”.
According to Wikipedia our area
. . . has a Mediterranean climate, with warm summers, and mild to chilly winters. It is one of the highest rainfall regions in South Africa. Most rain falls in the winter and spring months, brought by the humid sea winds from the Indian Ocean.
Well, this is no longer true. For the last year we have had one season a day . . . for practically the entire year! Wikipedia quotes the historical average high temperature as 21°C. The average high for 2009 was 27°C and the figures for 2010 are looking similar.
Although the actual figures can be debated (it depends on how accurate the historical data is, and how these averages were calculated), there has been a significant increase in the average temperatures. Looking at the figures on Weather Underground (let it be noted that I haven’t done a proper statistical study on this!), it appears that there hasn’t been much change in the extreme maximum temperatures to cause this increase. Rather the maximum temperatures have been higher right through the year.
What does this mean “on the ground”. It means that we didn’t have much of a winter this year. We did have two weeks when it snowed on the local coastal mountain range, and was nippy down here at ground level. The rest of the time it didn’t feel like winter at all. The bergwinds which I have previously described that used to be an early-winter phenomenon, blew almost through the whole of winter. I have never like the heat (the only thing for me that is “wrong” with Africa!), so was in shorts and t-shirts for most of the winter. Now it’s summer here again, so more hot, dry days ahead . . .