No end in sight for dry spell

The City of Cape Town's largest storage dam, the Theewaterskloof dam, is running dry. (Supplied)
The City of Cape Town's largest storage dam, the Theewaterskloof dam, is running dry. (Supplied)

Cape Town - It is unclear for how much longer the drought in Cape Town and surrounding areas is going to last, but history shows that dry spells in the city have persisted for as long as 15 years, says Hannes Rautenbach, the chief scientist for climate change and variability at the SA Weather Service.

The weather records, which stretch back to 1921, show that Cape Town and surrounds experienced a dry spell of below normal rainfall from 1924 to 1939, he added.

The last time Cape Town experienced three consecutive years of below normal rainfall was from 1971 to 1973.

In 2015, 549 millimetres of rain was recorded, making it the second-driest year since 1921; in 2016, the region received 634mm of rain, making it the 14th-driest year since 1921; and there were 499mm last year – the driest year since 1921. This compares with average annual rainfall of 820mm since 1921.

“Two of the driest years recorded since 1921 have occurred in the past three years, which makes the Cape Town drought exceptional,” Rautenbach said.

He said there wasn’t a clear explanation for why Cape Town had seen below normal rainfall for three years in a row.

“In winter, Cape Town gets rains because cold air from the Arctic comes up from the south. This rainfall is not easy to predict.”

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