Capetonians cool off in the hot weather. Photo: Supplied

Further heat waves in store for Cape Town

Cape Town is facing hotter weather and a recurring drought because of the ongoing El Niño effect, say climate experts.


Capetonians cool off in the hot weather. Photo: Supplied

Capetonians sweltered in 35-degree heat on Friday, and according to climate change experts, this could be the first of many hot and dry spells in the Mother City.

Christopher Trisos, a climate change expert at the University of Cape Town (UCT) said this was the hottest El Niño on record.

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A hot combo

“[El Niño] is occurring on top of global heating caused by greenhouse gas emissions from burning coal, oil, and gas,” he told the Weekend Argus.

“In addition to extreme hot weather, El Niño has been associated with drier conditions over parts of Southern Africa.”

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El Niño is a climate pattern that describes the unusual warming of surface waters in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. Its effects are felt globally.

South Africa is coming out of a La Niña year, which has resulted in a lot of rain and wet weather. Recent floods in KwaZulu-Natal have shown the impacts of this complex climate system, and El Niño/La Niña have exacerbated these cycles.

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Is Cape Town prepared?

Trisos said that with increased climate change, Cape Town would see a more severe drought than the last one in 2018/19. Drought, extreme heat, wildfires, and flooding are all important climate hazards that Cape Town has needed to prepare for.

“With climate change increasing, the chances of more severe and intense droughts for the Western Cape will increase. We could have a drought worse than the last one,” he said.

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During the last drought in Cape Town, politicians and officials scrambled to figure out how to avoid ‘Day Zero’ when taps would have run dry. This included the acquisition of water desalination plants, and tapping into aquifers, ground water and neighbourhood springs.

“The City has some of the best climate change information available to it. That said, there is a massive amount of work that needs to be done to make Cape Town more adapted to climate change, especially for the most vulnerable in informal settlements,” Trisos added.