Cold, wet weather the 'most normal' winter in years, says SAWS

2019-08-02 12:57
Cold weather is typical for winter. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Cold weather is typical for winter. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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The cold and wet weather in parts of SA is an indication of a more normal winter after years of drought, the South African Weather Service (SAWS) has said.

While the rain from a series of cold fronts has largely abated, the temperatures across the country remain low, especially over the southern and western parts of the country.

READ | Eish! Rain, cold and windy weather continues to grip SA

But as South Africans shiver, the weather is more typical of what winter should be like.

"This year is the most normal. It's what you expect to happen in winter," SAWS long term forecaster Kobus Olivier told News24.

According to the SAWS Seasonal Climate Watch's August to December 2019 model, there is a prediction for above normal rainfall conditions over the winter rainfall regions of the western parts of SA.


PICS | Snowfall, rain and bitter cold hits Cape mountain ranges

Higher temperatures are expected over the northern parts of the country, heading into spring.

"The important part is that there is an indication of above normal rainfall to occur. Warmer temperatures will occur more to the north of the country - if you look at both the minimum and maximum temperatures," said Olivier.

The SAWS predicted cold temperatures for Cape Town (10°C to 17°C), Bloemfontein (0°C - 23°C), Upington (3°C - 27°C) and George (8°C - 20°C).

But there is also a warning of veld fire conditions over the Northern Cape, North West and eastern parts of the Free State, as well as an advisory for strong winds over parts of the Eastern Cape.


Veld fire conditions warning. (SAWS)

The cold wet weather, though, is not yet an indication that this season is an outlier.

"It's a bit difficult to say that this winter is wetter and colder, because it's still not done. Rainfall shifts around within a season," said Olivier.

He said that the snowfalls, multiple cold fronts and cold temperatures were an indication of a typical winter, rather than an unusual event.

"Sometimes it's not seen as typical, because in the last three or four years it's been dry and hot. We went through a drought - that was an extreme event."

Climate change

The SAWS indicated that there was also a weak El Niño state, but Olivier said that the link between the phenomenon and winter rainfall wasn't yet understood.

"There is a complex effect with El Niño which we don't understand yet. It has a known impact on summer rainfall areas, not winter rainfall areas yet."


Climate is measured over a 30-year period and the indications are that climate change is having an impact on SA - especially the western parts, which rely on cold fronts for rainfall.

"Temperatures are a little bit difficult because of the issue of climate change, and the normal is actually shifting. We've been getting above normal temperatures forecasts," Olivier said.

"It's probably indicative of fewer cold fronts coming over and that is bad."


As fewer cold fronts sweep across SA, temperatures are set to increase over time, though there is wide variation in both temperature and rainfall in a season.

Dams in Cape Town have benefited from the rain and passed the 75% capacity mark on Thursday. The key Theewaterskloof dam is 66.1% full, compared to 42%, the same time in 2018.

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