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Why it's important to classify droughts correctly

25 November 2019 5:58 PM
Tags:
The Conversation
Mike Muller
drought relief funding
droughts

Not all droughts are the same. It's important to understand the different categories and their implications, a professor says.

Not all droughts are the same, explains Professor Mike Muller.

Muller, a visiting adjunct professor at the University of the Witwatersrand, has written an insightful piece on The Conversation.

He says it's important to make the distinction between a meteorological drought, an agricultural (or farming) drought and a hydrological drought.

RELATED: Pupils forced to relieve themselves in the bushes in drought-stricken Makhanda

In his article, he defines them as follows:

  • A meteorological drought occurs when rainfall is less than average over a significant period, often a month.
  • An agricultural drought occurs when a lack of rainfall leads to a decline in soil moisture affecting pastures and rain-fed crops.
  • A hydrological drought occurs when a meteorological drought significantly reduces the availability of water resources in dams, rivers, lakes and underground.

This is what the Western Cape is currently experiencing, Muller says.

RELATED: Karoo farmers forced to cull 'weak sheep' amid worsening Northern Cape drought

The fourth type of "drought", Muller says, is the kind that is caused by "unthinking human action" prevalent across SA.

We don't really understand our weather, our climate and how it affects our water supply very well.

Mike Muller, Visiting adjunct professor - University of the Witwatersrand

People really need to think about what drought means, who it's affecting and what's causing it.

Mike Muller, Visiting adjunct professor - University of the Witwatersrand

He says defining a drought correctly becomes vital when government officials declare drought or disaster emergencies and put in place disaster aid.

A drought's classification has implications for the kind of relief and aid that will be expected.

There has been a bit of debate in the agricultural community about what they can expect from government.

Mike Muller, Visiting adjunct professor - University of the Witwatersrand

Read his original published on The Conversation.

Listen to the discussion on Afternoon Drive with John Maytham:


25 November 2019 5:58 PM
Tags:
The Conversation
Mike Muller
drought relief funding
droughts

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