Crazy climate raises queries

Image by: Ruvan Boshoff
A severe drought with dams running almost dry, then a storm that lashed the Western Cape so badly that lives were lost, trees were uprooted, roofs were blown off and waves pounded houses set far back from the beach.

Are we seeing first-hand the effects of global warming and climate change? And what is likely to happen next?

According to Bob Scholes, an expert in climate change at Wits University, the nature of such extreme and irregular events makes it difficult to say.

“The prolonged dry period is most likely associated with an anomaly in the global ocean circulation. This happens from time to time. A well-known example is the El Niño southern oscillation, which is impossible to predict but might be changing in frequency because of climate change.

“Because of their irregularity, it is very hard to say with any confidence that a given event is caused by climate change,” says Scholes.

Globally, the high frequency of such extreme weather events is prompting scientists to point a finger at climate change.

According to the US National Wildlife Federation, “global warming is making hot days hotter, rainfall and flooding heavier, hurricanes stronger and droughts more severe.

“This intensification of weather and climate extremes will be the most visible effect of global warming on our everyday lives.

[“It is] causing dangerous changes to the landscape of our world, adding stress to wildlife species and their habitat.”

For now, what can people of the Western Cape expect?

Wet weather is predicted from today, until Saturday.

Such spells of rainfall, however, will be the exception and will not end the drought.

“There is some evidence that [ there will be] another El Niño southern oscillation this year, which would suggest above average rainfall in the southwestern Cape,” said Scholes.

However, that relief is unlikely to happen during the course of this winter.

TANYA FARBER

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