What causes tropical cyclones?

2018-12-20 06:01
PHOTO: sourcedResearchers predict heavy storms that will hit South Africa.

PHOTO: sourcedResearchers predict heavy storms that will hit South Africa.

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SOUTH Africans are urged to brace themselves for heavy storms that are expected to hit the country as powerful tropical cyclones progress further south, raising concerns as the country did not get storms of this magnitude in the past.

Researchers from Witwatersrand University predicted that category five tropical cyclones occurring in the South Indian Ocean raise major concerns.

Senior lecturer in physical geography at Wits University Dr Jennifer Fitchett said most tropical cyclones [hurricanes] of this kind originate in the North Atlantic Ocean, where they are fuelled by the warm Gulf Stream.

“The South Indian Ocean has been relatively well protected, meaning that tropical cyclones are rarer in southern Africa. Those that do hit the region tend to be quite low in intensity on the Saffir Simpson scale. This scale is used to rank tropical cyclones on the basis of a storm’s wind speed and pressure. Low intensity storms rank as a ‘one’ on the scale, while ‘five’ represents the most intense and damaging tropical cyclones,” she said.

Fitchett said category five tropical cyclones didn’t exist in this ocean before 1994, saying: “They were recorded for the North Atlantic, North Pacific and South Pacific Oceans throughout most of the 20th century. But, since 1994, category five storms in the South Indian Ocean have become more frequent.Based on the progressive trend over the past three decades, their frequency is likely to keep increasing.”

According to the report, the last time a category five storm hit southern Africa was in April 2016, when tropical cyclone Fantala moved through the southwest Indian Ocean, passing north of Madagascar and making landfall on the Island of Farquhar in the Seychelles.

According to the research, tropical cyclones are caused by rising sea surface temperatures. Fitchett urged the government to respond proactively to this new threat.

The report suggested that coastal buildings, roads and bridges need to be built to withstand the high wind speeds, heavy rainfall and possible storm surges to prevent costly infrastructure damage.

Meanwhile, weather forecaster Ayanda Ntsele from SA Weather Service told the Weekly that there were no heavy rains expected in KZN this week.

“Residents can expect thunderstorms this week in the afternoons. In the next seven days, we have no records of heavy rains that are likely to hit KZN, however, that can also be confirmed in the next seven days,” Ntsele said.

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