"The Witness" Article 15 December 2016

2016 to be hottest year globally, while drought continues to grip SA

THIS year is on track to be the hottest since weather records began, stealing 2015’s title as the world’s hottest year since 1880.

KwaZulu­Natal last year experienced its driest year in over a century with extremely low rainfall across the province.

Coupled with the El Niño phenomenon, the warming of sea­surface temperatures affecting rainfall and temperature in specific areas around the world, the province saw certain towns run out of water and scores of farm animals die.

Although this year has seen more rainfall than last, high temperatures and low rainfall mean that the rain that has fallen on the surface of the dams and on the ground, evaporates soon after it has fallen.

University of KwaZulu­Natal Agrometeorology senior professor Michael Savage said it appeared that 2016 “will be about 0,25° Celsius hotter than 2015 for the southern hemisphere”.

“For the northern hemisphere, 2016 is almost 0,5° C hotter than 2015,” said Savage.

“The fact that 2016 is hotter than 2015 is also indicated by the bleaching of the corals in Australia, Mauritius and the Seychelles islands.

“Higher water temperatures cause the ocean waters to become more acidic and this then bleaches the corals, causing dieback.”

Savage said it was difficult to narrow the global average results down to smaller areas such as Pietermaritzburg.

UKZN Agrometeorology Dr Alistair Clulow said that the higher temperatures would make the drought the province is experiencing far worse.

“We have had a lot of cloudy days and a little bit of rain, enough to green things up, but the high temperatures mean the evaporation rates will be higher and faster,” said Clulow.

“With the low rainfall and higher temperatures, the rain is not able to reach the ground water and the springs.”

South African Weather Services climate information unit manager Elsa de Jager said that 93 new highest temperature records were broken across South Africa this year in January, while only eight were recorded in January last year.

In 2015, February saw 17 high temperature records broken, while 2016 had 34 record temperatures.

March 2015 had 21 record temperatures, with 2016 grabbing 19.

Although October 2015 had 74 record temperatures and 2016 had 35, the rest of the 2016 year has not yet been calculated.

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