Weird weather: SA's most extreme weather events of 2016

2016-12-23 13:50 - Selene Brophy
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Cape Town - As the start to the Christmas weekend gets off to a blustery start, with gale force warnings - there is no denying 2016 has dished up some insane weather phenomenon.

From snow in Spring, gripping on-going drought in certain parts to flash floods and supermoons of note - it’s been a year scattered with weird weather.

While 2015 is still considered the hottest year to date, all temperatures and forecasts indicate 2016 will likely surpass this record as the first 10 months of the year have been the hottest in modern times.

Experts say 2016 is likely to become the hottest year on record due to the continued burning of fossil fuels that contributes to global warming and exacerbated by the ocean warming trend of El Nino, which formally ended in July.

SEE: Climate change, tourism surge: 10 Tourist attractions on the brink of extinction

With that said, soaring temperatures are not the only weather phenomenon dished up in 2016. Take a look at these…

1. SA prepared for the biggest supermoon in 68 years but many were not impressed

The biggest Supermoon in 68 years was expected over SA on November 14th and while some captured a few magical shots and experiences of the moon as it was 14% bigger and 30% brighter than usual - in fact the closest it was to earth since 1948.  Some people certainly felt the anticipation had left them feeling slightly cheated.

The phenomenon also caused a pretty intense spring tide, which resulted in gigantic waves such as this!

SEE: PICS: Stunning Supermoon rises over SA

2. Remember when a tornado hit in Belfast, then Bloem … and even during Joburg in peak traffic

In February tornado footage of a massive swirling white column seen in Mpumalanga's Belfast appeared on social media. The severe weather resulted in massive damage and at the time areas like Dullstroom and as far as Polokwane suffered massive hail storms, where stones as large as golf balls came pouring down. 

Then in May this year, the Free State town of Bloem experienced a week of severe thunderstorms. 

Equally hard hit was Botshabelo outside Bloemfontein, severely affected by the weather.

Images were shared with Traveller24 by Matthew van Wyngaardt, which at the time showed how the cloud formations formed over Botshabelo.

Van Wyngaardt told Traveller24, he started noticing the very strange cloud formations moving over the town from around midday on Tuesday, 10 May.

"They looked like a kind of spiral shaped vortex. from where I was watching, I wasn't really exposed to any violent weather, but I could see that it looked quite turbulent underneath the clouds. I didn't actually see the spiral touch the ground, but I was fairly certain that the conditions were conducive to support a tornado formation."

You can see a full gallery of Van Wyngaardt's photographs here: PICS - Bloem 'tornado' approaching looks so ominous

Then in July a small tornado was seen on the R21 north-east of OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, Gauteng. 

According to social media at the time Phumulani Mall and a clinic in Thembisa was damaged by the gale force winds and accompanying hail. Motorists in peak traffic shared images of the twister to social media too.


3. Let it SNOW!  Forecasts of snow hit SA as early as March in 2016

South Africa was gripped by heavy rainfall and disruptive snow, with extremely cold conditions expected as far back as March of this year.   

The first snow forecast for South Africa for 2016 was issued a full three months ahead of the official southern hemisphere winter season. 

According to Mountain Forecast, temperatures dropped below -6°C at the time in the southern parts of the Western Cape. In July, the snowfall was so bad, the South African Weather Service issued a snow travel alert that saw 10 passes between the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal shut.

In fact things became so chilly, 26 July was also declared one of the coldest nights of the year - SEE PICS: 'One of the coldest nights of 2016' hits SA.

 4. Insane flash floods blocked off access to OR Tambo

In November, early summer rains hit hard in and around OR Tambo International and a number of other areas were also affected by an intense rain storm, which in turn caused severe flash flooding.

Access to the airport was cut-off as the lower basement parking was flooded. South Africa's busiest airport was severely affected by the flash floods, with SA Weather Service confirming that at the time OR Tambo international airport received 89.6mm in the space of 3 hours.

5. There were even some unusual rainbows

The weirdness even saw some seriously bold rainbows in Cape Town.  Described as coming out of the sea and stretch over the city's southern suburbs to infinity - the rainbow had Instagrammers delightfully posting pics of the colourful bow  

SEE: PICS: Weird weather brings bold rainbows to Cape Town


 6. PICS: Snow falls in the Sahara Desert for the first time in 37 years!

So if we've learnt anything from this bizarre year, it's to expect the unexpected... And just to end off the on an equally weird note - the Sahara Desert, one of the driest and hottest regions of the world, has just experiences some snow fall.

The small desert town of Ain Sefra in Algeria woke up on Monday, 19 December, to find that the red sand dunes had unexpectedly turned white. Amateur photographer Karim Bouchetata photographed the fleeting scene on Monday in the small Algerian town of Ain Sefra, which lies in the Atlas Mountains on the northern edge of the desert.

"Everyone was stunned to see snow falling in the desert, it is such a rare occurrence," he told The Guardian. "It looked amazing as the snow settled on the sand and made a great set of photos.

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