Durban - Extreme weather phenomena are on the increase in South Africa, with fierce storms, tornadoes and heatwaves hitting parts of KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and the Eastern Cape recently.
A few weeks after KZN was lashed by a series of tornadoes, the country reeled from a heatwave that recorded 53.2°C in Vioolsdrif in Namaqualand in the North West.
According to SA Weather Service (Saws) national forecaster, Mbavhi Maliage, this was the highest temperature recorded in South Africa.
She said that on Thursday, the same area recorded a high of 51.1°C.
In 1931, Tunisia recorded a temperature of 55°C, however, that figure was unreliable due to instruments not being calibrated to international standards back then.
Maliage said such weather patterns were not unusual for this time of year.
“We usually experience our warmer weather temperatures from December through to January, so it isn’t out of the ordinary to have this weather towards the end of November,” she said.
Maliage said the weather was a result of an upper high weather system that resulted in the heatwave.
“Temperatures had started to increase in the Northern Cape from Monday and Tuesday and gradually increased as the days progressed.
“This is a record for South Africa, especially in that region,” she said.
In the Eastern Cape, a man was killed and scores more were left homeless after violent storms ripped through the town of Alice in Fort Beaufort on Friday.
Maliage confirmed that the storms had been preceded by gale force winds.
“In this season, we usually expect strong winds and thunderstorms as well as tornadoes.
“KZN has been experiencing quite a few tornadoes,” she said.
In recent weeks, there have been at least three tornadoes - in Ulundi, Utrecht and New Hanover.
According to Professor Jennifer Fitchett of the Wits School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, the change in weather had been progressive, but over the past decade there had been a notable increase in extreme weather events in southern Africa relative to the rest of the past century, including droughts, floods and heat waves.
“The tornadoes are not necessarily unusual, the region usually has about 10 a season and it is difficult to assess total numbers as they are not as easily monitored via remote sensing as thunderstorms and tropical cyclones,” Fitchett said.
“The heatwave is particularly notable because it is against a relatively neutral El Niño southern oscillation.
“Very hot seasons in Southern Africa have been recorded during El Niño years when the Pacific Ocean is much warmer.”
Meanwhile, cooler weather temperatures were expected for the rest of the week in Durban, a welcome relief after at least four sweltering days.
Saws said rain was predicted from tomorrow until Wednesday. Saws forecaster in KwaZulu-Natal, Stacy Colborne, said no weather warnings had been predicted for the week.