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Record-Breaking Maximum Temperatures Hit West Coast of South Africa Amidst Winter Season

Published September 21, 2023
8 months ago

In an unexpected twist to South Africa's typically harsh winter season, the Western Cape region basked in scorching hot weather conditions this week. Several areas, notably Cape Town, Paarl, Malmesbury, and Alexander Bay, recorded maximum temperatures exceeding 34°C on Tuesday, 29 August. The result was a surprising mini heatwave that saw locals flock to the beaches to escape the unusual winter heat.

According to the Climate Shift Index (CSI), a tool developed by Climate Central, these temperatures were five times more probable due to the impact of climate change. In a world grappling with climate change's realities, the CSI provides invaluable data showcasing how these changes influence our local weather.

The South African Weather Service (SAWS) attributes these record-breaking temperatures to a combination of atmospheric conditions. Specifically, entrenched high pressure over central South Africa, strong offshore winds along the west coast, and a surface trough off the country's western part are the key to these unusual temperature levels.

Stefaan Conradie, a climatology PhD student from the University of Cape Town's Climate Systems Analysis Group, verified these conditions are typical of a berg wind. However, the persistent high pressure causing temperatures to build over several days is less usual.

The SAWS has issued advisories for heatwave conditions in various regions, particularly Alexander Bay. Conditions such as these often precede a cold frontal system, expected to make its mark on the Western Cape this week.

Long-range forecasts suggest that this warm weather trend will persist through to summer and spring, as per SAWS's latest seasonal watch for September through to January. The impending El Niño weather event adds a layer of unpredictability to coming weather conditions.

Conforming to certain criteria, a heatwave is declared. This occurs when maximum temperatures are 5°C above than the average maximum of that location's hottest month for three consecutive days in a row. In this case, only Alexander Bay met these criteria.

Furthermore, the SAWS has issued an advisory for possible higher than normal spring tides due to the upcoming super blue moon. The public is advised to exercise extra caution around the country's coastline during this period.

In conclusion, both the higher than usual winter temperatures and the predicted increased rainfall in spring indicate that climate change significantly influences South Africa's weather patterns. As we continue to balance on climate change's unpredictable seesaw, such occurrences may become more frequent in the future.

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