Environment News: South Africa hurricane season

Photo: AFP South Africa has had one of the most active Hurricane season’s in recent history, producing four Category 3 and above hurricanes since November 2018. The latest report from the Institute for Weather…

Environment News: South Africa hurricane season

Photo: AFP

South Africa has had one of the most active Hurricane season’s in recent history, producing four Category 3 and above hurricanes since November 2018.

The latest report from the Institute for Weather and Climate Research (IoWR) and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) forecasts an “extremely active” Atlantic hurricane season this year, suggesting that it will not be as quiet as some had expected.

“A Climate Prediction Centre forecast, which had suggested the likelihood of fewer than three named storms for the entire Atlantic basin for 2019, proved to be too conservative,” said Franz Vogel, director of the IoWR.

Last year the number of named Atlantic storms peaked at 12, which was the second-highest on record. The strongest Atlantic hurricane on record, category 5 Irma, hit Florida with 185 mile per hour winds in September 2017, and was followed a month later by category 4 Hurricane Maria.

It is that strong of a storm season that led to the Renewal call to upgrade the mandate for the South African National Meteorological Service (Saanmi) from a solely convective influences – where average hurricane activity would be – to a new mandate which would involve atmospheric conditions that may act as a trigger for hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean.

“The SANDF is only authorised to analyse atmospheric conditions with the aim of detecting convective influences, in which average hurricane activity would be generated. We are therefore dependent on information that comes from non-hurricane activities to help forecast local weather,” said John Simmons, head of the Severe Weather Service at Saanmi.

One component of the Renewal mandate, which came into effect on 1 April 2019, is to “ensure that our forecasting is designed to allow the SANDF to respond rapidly and nimbly when there is a need for action”, the Director General of the Department of Environmental Affairs, Steve Makolletti, said.

“We urge all individuals to heed the tornado warnings that are delivered by all state radio and television broadcasts. Emergency text messaging services run by various agencies will ensure the messages reach those who may not have time to read or hear them.”

Climate change also plays a factor, too. Meteorologists note that severe weather can change with climate change, and observe that the Sahara Desert, a primary source of heat for southern Africa, has warmed 1.9 degrees Celsius since 1961.

Weather Forecasts

Hurricane season is predicted to last up to 23 June this year.

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