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Weather phenomenon that caused KZN floods occurring more often - climatologist

13 April 2022 9:17 AM
Tags:
Climate change
Floods
Global warming
KZN Floods
KwaZulu-Natal flooding
extreme rainfall

'Early Breakfast' host Africa Melane chats to climatology professor, Francois Engelbrecht.
  • The weather system that resulted in extreme rainfall over KZN is known as the cut-off low pressure system.
  • Climatology professor, Francois Engelbrecht, says cut-off lows are common in SA and increasing in frequency.
  • According to Engelbrecht, extreme rainfall events have been taking place more often in the last few decades, citing global warming.

Screengrab of video of flood damage in Ntuzuma, north of Durban, @_NMabaso

The weather pattern known as the cut-off low pressure system is behind the extreme rainfall that has devastated parts of KwaZulu-Natal.

According to reports, over 50 people have died from floods and mudslides after rainstorms struck the province.

Climatology professor, Francois Engelbrecht, says the weather system has been responsible for many of the flooding disasters that have affected South Africa in the past.

RELATED: KZN education confirms death of several pupils due to floods

A similar weather system caused a mudslide in Durban and other parts of KZN in April 2019, with 180 millimeters of rainfall in just 24 hours.

Around 70 people were killed during the floods three years ago.

Back in 1987, around 900 millimeters of rain fell in just four days, leaving over 300 people dead in Durban.

RELATED: How you can help get food and clothing to people displaced by KZN floods

Professor Engelbrecht says the cut-off lows increasing in frequency and resulting in more extreme rainfall events.

He believes this is due to global warming.

These events have occurred in the past but it is a concern that there's evidence that their frequency of occurrence is increasing.

Prof Francois Engelbrecht, Professor of Climatology - Global Change Institute

There's very clear evidence that the number of heavy rainfall events has systematically been increasing over the last five decades.

Prof Francois Engelbrecht, Professor of Climatology - Global Change Institute

We should expect increasingly more intense rainfall coming from these cut-off low pressure systems that occur in South Africa reasonably often.

Prof Francois Engelbrecht, Professor of Climatology - Global Change Institute

According to Engelbrecht, cut-off lows are very common in South Africa, particularly along the coastal regions.

He says the country typically has 10 of them every year, and about two out of 10 bring flooding to parts of SA.

The flooding was a result of a weather system that occurs over our country very often. It's called a cut-off low pressure system. These weather systems form on average 1.2 times every April, they are not uncommon at all during the month of April.

Prof Francois Engelbrecht, Professor of Climatology - Global Change Institute

In the early morning of last Saturday, the system formed over the central interior of South Africa then it slowly moved eastward. It moved from the interior into the Indian Ocean, along the KwaZulu-Natal south coast and a combination of the upper part of this weather system with all the moisture that was brought in from the Indian Ocean into KZN was really the perfect storm, the perfect ingredient for very heavy falls of rain to occur.

Prof Francois Engelbrecht, Professor of Climatology - Global Change Institute



13 April 2022 9:17 AM
Tags:
Climate change
Floods
Global warming
KZN Floods
KwaZulu-Natal flooding
extreme rainfall

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