Climate Change on a local scale

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 . . .

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Categories: Nature/Environment

Author:lisa@notesfromafrica

I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at https://notesfromafrica.wordpress.com and http://southerncape.wordpress.com (my photoblog)

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13 Comments on “Climate Change on a local scale”

  1. November 4, 2010 at 10:18 am #

    Quite scary when the change is so obvious, even during the time you’ve been living there. People in the UK have been saying the winters here are getting colder here – we experienced their coldest winter in 55 years or so earlier this year …
    Sunshine

    • November 4, 2010 at 10:29 am #

      Yes, it is scary. I’d say the changes where we live started happening in the mid-1990s, but we are really feeling the changes now.

      I heard that the last winter was so bad in Europe. My brother who lives over there, told me it was the first time in several decades that the Baltic Sea started to ice over. This past summer they’ve had sweltering heat. He told me one day was 42°C with high humidity.

  2. November 4, 2010 at 7:41 pm #

    I spoke to someone, who lives in Cape Town, today and he complained about them getting too much rain! When I explained to him about the drought in our area, his first thought was of the GOLF COURSE suffering because of it! He asked me if the drought is because of Global Warming? Not knowing enough about it, I simply told him “it’s because it’s not raining” . I’m hoping my friend, the scientist, will answer the GW question sometime so I can quote her when I speak to him again 😉

    “What does this mean “on the ground. It means that we didn’t have much of a winter this year.”
    I can’t remember the last time we experienced an honest to goodness winter in the EC either! Is it my imagination or has the seasonal months in SA also changed over the last few years?

    • November 5, 2010 at 5:25 am #

      Golf courses are part of the water problem in our area!

      Climate Change might be a better term to use for this because it’s not only the GW that we’re seeing, but extreme weather patterns. Whatever you call it though, it’s a complicated topic and one I’m not really qualified to talk about.

      The seasons: There has definitely been a shift in the seasons in South Africa, so it isn’t your imagination!

  3. November 4, 2010 at 11:15 pm #

    Hi Lisa,
    I’m so glad that you stopped by my blog and led me to yours!
    This is truly scary!
    As you might know, I live in Canada, Winnipeg of all places and being far from the equator the signs of Climate change are not so obvious. That said, our yearly temperature has risen, but when winter means extreme cold a couple of degrees while serious and significant is not particularly noticeable. When we have an unusually warm winter like the past winter, people tend to enjoy it and not think about what it might really mean.
    I do know many who are truly committed, and like me choose not to drive cars, curb consumption, and try to make wise choices, but not nearly enough.
    Thank you for writing and sharing. More need to hear about what is really happening in other parts of the world!

    • November 5, 2010 at 5:37 am #

      Thanks for visiting!

      It’s interesting to hear about how other parts of the world are experiencing climate change.

      I can imagine that Canadians do not mind having milder winters! I’ve heard they can be pretty severe. What was the past summer like?

      • November 7, 2010 at 7:15 am #

        Wet, cold and pretty much miserable.
        Usually it is very hot and dry but not for the past couple of years.
        I must admit to being a bit worried.
        Normally the ground is dry and cracked at this time of year, then covered in snow and when it melts the dry soil soaks it up.
        Right now, the ground is saturated and the rivers are overflowing far past their banks.
        Any day now, winter will hit although it is unseasonably warm right now.
        Come spring when the snow melts there is nowhere for all of the water to go, nor all of the water that will come from the US as we are down stream from North and South Dakota, Minnesota and even Kansas.
        I’m not hearing too much talk about it, but I can’t remember seeing river levels so high at this time of year. The weather is much warmer than usual, but winter can arrive over night, and it is overdue.
        The city is very prepared, but outlying areas could be hit hard.
        To my mind, things are really changing, but it doesn’t seem that many seem to notice.
        I’ll be writing about winter on my blog at some point as most of my readers seem to be from much more moderate climates… but I’ll have to wait until we get there.
        Thank you for asking. This is very interesting and I think very important.

      • November 8, 2010 at 2:28 pm #

        That sounds pretty alarming! What’s also interesting about Canada having a warmer winter last winter, is that England and Europe had a much colder one than usual. With deep snowfalls where there usually are only mild ones, and the Baltic Sea freezing over. One would have thought that the whole Northern Hemisphere might experience similar conditions.

        Wish I knew more about these things . . .

  4. March 18, 2011 at 9:05 am #

    Interesting read. What was the water level of the town dam when you moved in? (if you can remember).

    • March 18, 2011 at 11:48 am #

      I can’t remember exactly what the level of the town dam was, but in the first couple of years we were here, I don’t think it went below 80%.

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