South Africa is experiencing an increasing number of days with high temperatures, with the rate of increase above the global average, South African Weather Service CEO Dr Linda Makuleni said on Tuesday.
She said the frequency and intensity of severe weather conditions in the country would continue, with either droughts or heavy rains.
The Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces have experienced the severe impacts of droughts.
Farmers, particularly small-scale farmers, the agricultural industry and business in the Eastern Cape, one of the poorest provinces, with a high unemployment rate, were affected.
Droughts in KwaZulu-Natal, for example, resulted in major sugar producers’, including Tongaat-Hulett and Illovo Sugar, taking a knock in 2010, with recovery still filtering through in 2011. In 2010, the local sugar industry’s production declined to below two-million tons of sugar for the first time in almost 20 years.
Flooding throughout the country has also displaced many South Africans from their homes.
Globally, temperatures in 2011 were currently the tenth highest on record, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said at a press briefing on the release of its provisional statement on the status of the global climate for this year, at the COP 17 climate meeting in Durban.
The global climate in 2011 was heavily influenced by the La Niña event, which developed in the tropical Pacific in the second half of 2010 and continued to May this year. The WMO said it was one of the strongest of the last 60 years and was closely associated with the drought in East Africa and flooding in Southern Africa, as well as drought in the southern US and flooding in eastern Australia and southern Asia. The La Niña event is an ocean atmosphere phenomenon when the sea surface temperature is lower than the normal 3 °C to 5 °C.
The 13 warmest years have all occurred in the last 15 years since 1997, with the extent of the Arctic-sea ice in 2011 being the second lowest on record, and its volume the lowest.
The global combined sea surface and land surface air temperature for January to October is currently estimated at 0.41 °C and 0.11 °C respectively.
Further, the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have reached new highs, said WMO deputy secretary general Jerry Lengoasa.
Greenhouse-gas emissions were “rapidly” approaching levels consistent with a 2 °C to 2.4 °C rise in average global temperatures, which scientists believe could trigger “far reaching and irreversible” changes to the planet, biosphere and oceans, he explained.
Lengoasa said he hoped the international community would take up the scientific information provided to a greater extent, such as to frame policy decisions on climate change. Further, he hoped that there were investments driving research in weather patterns to understand and explore the impacts of changing weather conditions, which would be strongly founded on adaptation and science.
The WMO’s preliminary information for 2011 is based on climate data from networks of land-based weather and climate stations, ships and buoys, as well as satellites. The data is continuously collected and disseminated by the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services of the 189 members of WMO and several collaborating research institutions.