Trouble in Cape Town: Climate Change and Me
In light of Mr. Trump’s recent plans to reverse president Obama’s Climate Change Policy I decided to take a closer look at how climate change has affected the weather patterns in Cape Town. As a Capetonian I am used to experiencing drastic shifts in weather during the same day, but lately I have noticed very unusual weather in my hometown.
As a kid growing up in the northern suburbs of Cape Town I was used to long, hot and dry summer days which cooled off by the end of the day with strong winds that could, at times, knock you off your feet. During the month of December, we would see the rest of South Africa flock to our beaches to enjoy the summer holiday cooling off in the ocean. At times, we would shake our heads at the “Vaalies” as they brave the beach even during the days when we would experience gale force winds. As locals, we were used to expecting certain weather phenomenon during certain times of the year.
When it became time for the first school term of the year to end and for Easter to come, we raced to the classroom windows to look at the first drops of rain as if we were seeing snow for the first time. As the days grew shorter and darker we braced ourselves for the coming of winter and long spells of cold fronts which would bring two to three weeks of relentless rain. My birthday, falling in August, I always knew that I would never have a pool party and got used to the rain.
However, over the last five to ten years we have been met with, what is to us, very peculiar weather. We have experienced record high and low temperatures, drought and even snow as early as March. Not to mention the strange and dangerous weather the rest of the country experienced in 2016. When social media went abuzz with news of tornadoes in Bloemfontein and Johannesburg I first thought it a hoax, but was shocked to discover it the truth. Natural disasters such as tornadoes and typhoons were, after all, occurrences which never happened in South Africa (or at least that is what we thought).
Upon closer inspection of our rainfall measurements over a period of ten years we can see a gradual decline in the average precipitation measurements for each month. Now, it might seem as if this decline is very small and therefore insignificant, but it has a greater impact in our daily lives than previously thought. Besides us experiencing exciting weather phenomenons such as thunderstorms we are also currently living through one of the most severe droughts Cape Town has ever seen. Our local dam levels have been receding at an alarming rate and we are now concerned whether we will have water in our taps for the next month. Furthermore, the dry landscapes combined with extremely hot temperatures and strong winds have been the ideal conditions for Cape Town to have been victim to the worst seasonal veld fires in many years.
It can be argued that these phenomena are isolated occurrences and that it is not evidence to climate change in the area, but how do we explain these natural freak weather marvels which have been lighting up our local news for at least a decade? And the scary question then begs to be answered, what can we expect next, and are our local disaster management services equipped to deal with what is to come?