Gauteng’s recent heatwave was “unusual” for this time of year and was in line with global warming predictions made more than three decades ago, according to an environmental expert.
Gauteng residents have experienced a week of sweltering heat as temperatures soared to above 36 degrees Celsius in some parts.
The frequent and volatile thunderstorms followed by extreme heat over the last week were well ahead of schedule for the season, pointed out Dr Nicholas King.
They were being echoed in other parts of the world, including California in the US, which was experiencing its worst wildfires, despite the northern hemisphere currently entering its winter months.
According to Weather SA, if the maximum temperature is expected to meet or exceed 5 degrees Celsius above the average maximum temperature of the hottest month and persists for three days or more, then a heatwave can be declared.
King warned that South Africa could not afford to lag behind on climate change alleviation efforts as it is a water-scarce country. South Africa is also among the most fossil fuel-intensive economies in the world, with more than 90% of its energy production relying on coal.
“South Africa is particularly vulnerable to climate change because we are a semi-arid country and most of our rainfall is coming from the eastern seaboard, so the majority of it is under the rain shadow west of the mountain range.
“So any slight changes in weather, such as increases in temperature, can have very serious consequences especially because of our increasing dependence on rainfall dams.
“As recent events have shown, dams are a very bad idea in countries like ours because a large proportion of that water will be lost to evaporation.”
Changing weather patterns resulted in higher temperatures and more volatile pressure systems, and more thunderstorms in South Africa.
“We have seen the effects of climate change with the recent drought in the Western Cape and the whole Day Zero crisis in Cape Town – these are all in line with the model predictions on climate change from 30 years ago and they are all playing out today,” King said.