As the end of the rainy season approaches, and dams have yet to reach a 60% provincial average, Cape Town may be dealt another drought blow. South African Weather Services has predicted that another El Niño event may hit the country at the beginning of Spring.
The El Niño weather system that was originally recognised by the fishermen who frequented the water off the coast of South America in the 1600s, is the appearance of unusually warm water in the Pacific Ocean. This shift in water temperatures often has an effect on the levels of rainfall and temperatures in specific areas across the globe, as it causes the air to become more dry and humid.
Effectively, if an El Niño event does occur, it will mean that South Africa’s already swelteringly hot summers will become even hotter, and this could affect the water resources that have been building up during the winter rainy season, and may result in yet another severe drought.
The International Research Institute of Climate and Society, which is run by Columbia University in New York, also predicted that the system will arrive in the country over spring and summer.
The most recent El Niño event to hit South Africa in 2015 and resulted in the Cape Town Water Crisis. This led to some of the City’s major dams, like Theewaterskloof dam, carrying a storage level of less than 10%.
“Recurrence of El Niño drought conditions is likely … The next summer season has increased the likelihood for the development of El Niño conditions which are often associated with drought and water scarcity as seen recently in South Africa,” National Government said in a statement. “The likelihood has increased from previous assessments and as we near the winter period, these forecasts improve in reliability.”
It should be noted, however, that El Niño may help some winter crops that have been struggling in the Western Cape flourish, as it typically leads to a more fruitful winter rainy season.