Climate expert Dr. Peter Johnston says the Western Cape experienced an extraordinary weather event where two months’ worth of rain fell within just two days.
The province is currently dealing with the aftermath of severe weather conditions that resulted in widespread flooding, submerged roads, and strong winds causing damage to roofs in various areas.
The weekend saw an Orange Level 9 warning issued by the South African Weather Services (SAWS), which attributed the extreme weather to the development of a cut-off low-pressure system along the west coast of South Africa.
This weather system brought about intense rainfall, flash flooding, strong winds, and very rough seas in the affected areas.
PODCAST: Climate expert Dr. Peter Johnston speaks to SAFM about the Western Cape rains
Johnston explained the unusual nature of the event, stating, “A whole event between some places, sort of between 180 and 200 millimeters of rain, occurred during two-and-a-half days, which is equivalent to two months’ worth of rainfall. It is an extreme event, very unusual, and one has to look and say why so much rain, and it’s got something to do with the system that formed.”
He elaborated, “It’s called a cut-off low system, it’s a very intense upper air system that links with the lower surface air, and it’s a massive storm cell. It’s cut off from the westerly to easterly flow of the normal mid-latitude cyclones or cold fronts that the Western Cape usually experiences.”
The intensity and rarity of this weather event have raised questions about the underlying climatic factors that contributed to such extreme rainfall in such a short period. The impact of this weather event on the Western Cape, including its infrastructure, communities, and environment, requires ongoing attention and response efforts.
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