SA summer heat breaks 21 records: What's going on with the weather?

2016-01-13 13:32 - Selene Brophy
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Cape Town - There is no denying the weather has been more than a little bit out of sorts over the last couple of months.

And while 2015 has been pegged as the hottest year on record, the first two weeks of January has seen a number of records broken.

South African Weather Service Climate Information manager, Elsa de Jager said conditions during last week were conducive to the highest maximum temperature records being broken, as SA experienced an extended heatwave.

By definition heatwave conditions are defined where the maximum daytime temperature and minimum nighttime temperature rise above the threshold for a particular region for an extended period of time. 

READ: SA heatwave enters 4th day

According to the SA weather service preliminary data, 36 highest maximum temperature records were reached on Thursday afternoon 7 January 2016 - at the peak of the heatwave that gripped parts of the country. 

As per the SA weather service table, 21 areas displayed in the table below (highlighted in yellow) were the highest ever maximum temperatures recorded in the specific areas - recording new record highs within a matter of days.

The highest temperatures were recorded in Marico with a high of 43°C on the 6th January, breaking a 43-year long record high of 41°C  recorded on 19 January 1973. But this new record was broken a day later on the 7th of January when the mercury tipped at 45°C. 

Areas like Lephalale recorded highs of 43°C (previously 42°C in 14 January 2003) on the 6th only to recorded new high of 44.5°C a day later. The same sudden spikes in heat were noted in Pilanesburg which recorded a new high of 40°C (previously 39.6°C on 11 January 2001) on the 6th and then setting a new high of 42.9°C on the 7th of January.

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(South African Weather Service)

De Jager confirmed the strange weather patterns could be attributed to an El Niño phase currently being experienced in South Africa - which means that current summer rainfall will be much less than expected. 

WATCH: World's Hottest Year: Effects Of The El Nino Of 2015 On The Rest Of The World Explained

Surprisingly, De Jager said weather patterns have since changes considerably over the last few day - bringing with it thundershowers and alerts of flooding. 

De Jager confirmed that a new high rainfall record for January has also been recorded in Ventersdorp in the North West – with a total of 88mm having fallen in the last 24 hours, compared to a previous high in the area of 47mm recorded on the 19th of Jan 2004. The sudden change in the weather patterns can be attributed to moitsture coming from the equator, moving south towards South Africa, says de Jager.

ALERT: Flooding expected in northern parts of SA

In 2015 the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said the period between 2011-2015 has been the warmest five-year period on record.

Global average surface temperature in 2015 are expected to be the warmest on record, reaching the symbolic and significant milestone of 1° Celsius above the pre-industrial era. This is due to a combination of a strong El Niño and human-induced global warming, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

READ: Drought grips South Africa

The result has been many extreme weather events - especially heatwaves - influenced by climate change, according to a WMO five-year analysis.

(WMO)

"Greenhouse gas emissions, which are causing climate change, can be controlled. We have the knowledge and the tools to act," said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.

" The powerful El Niño event is influencing weather patterns in many parts of the world. The overall warming impact of this El Niño is expected to continue into 2016," said Jarraud.

WMO issued its provisional statement on the status of the climate in 2015, and an additional five-year analysis for 2011-2015, to inform negotiations which took place at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris towards the end of 2015.

'1°C above the pre-industrial age'

A preliminary estimate based on data from January to October shows that the global average surface temperature for 2015 so far was around 0.73 °C above the 1961-1990 average of 14.0°C and approximately 1°C above the pre-industrial 1880-1899  

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