Our Burning Planet


Weather Watch tracker — relatively dry, warm forecast for most of SA extended to October

Weather Watch tracker — relatively dry, warm forecast for most of SA extended to October
The sun rises behind the Johannesburg skyline during a heatwave on 5 December 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Kim Ludbrook)

Most of South Africa will be unseasonably warm with less-than-normal rainfall over the next five months, the South African Weather Service says in its latest monthly Seasonal Climate Watch report. This extends the outlook into October, which could have implications for early planting of summer crops.

The Climate Watch looks five months ahead, and the latest one is little changed from the previous, extending the relatively dry and warm outlook for most of the country into October. 

“The… multimodel rainfall forecast indicates mostly below-normal rainfall over most of the country during Jun-Jul-Aug (JJA), Jul-Aug-Sep (JAS) and Aug-Sep-Oct (ASO). Minimum and maximum temperatures are expected to be mostly above-normal countrywide for the forecast period,” the report says. 

This includes the southwestern parts of the country, which were battered by heavy rains over the weekend as a cold front moved in. It also rained in Gauteng and other central parts of the country on Sunday. 

But below-normal rainfall over an extended period does not mean no rainfall at all, and the forecast next month could change.   

“We are now at the start of the winter season, and as such weather systems occurring during this season are notoriously difficult to predict at a seasonal timescale,” the report pointedly says. 

“These systems typically have the largest impact along the southern to southeastern coastal areas. It is therefore strongly recommended that the short-term weather forecasts of the Weather Service are routinely consulted in addition to the seasonal forecast.” 

Parts of the Northern and Eastern Cape and the Free State are seen bucking the wider trend with cooler-than-usual temperatures expected. 

weather forecast SA crops

Farmers plough near Bronkhorstspruit on 9 November 2023. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

If the current outlook does pan out, a relatively dry October could have implications for early planting of summer crops such as the staple maize, notably in the eastern limb of the grain belt in Mpumalanga where it is typically planted a few weeks earlier than in the west. 

South African white maize production is seen down more than 25% this season compared with last year in the wake of scorching heatwaves triggered by the El Niño weather pattern, which devastated the crop in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi, raising the spectre of hunger for millions of people.

But El Niño – depending on the weather service you consult – has either faded or is rapidly weakening, and is widely forecast to soon be replaced by La Niña, which usually brings good rains to southern Africa.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Explainer — El Niño’s impact and what to expect from La Niña

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Monday that its latest forecasts showed a 50% chance of either neutral conditions or a transition to La Niña from June to August. 

“The chance of La Niña conditions increases to 60% during July-September and 70% during August-November. The chance of El Niño redeveloping is negligible during this time,” the WMO said. 

Farmers big and small in this region are certainly pinning their hopes on La Niña emerging in the coming months. DM

Absa OBP

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