Heatwave temperature record Cape Town

Rising temperatures are causing dangerous heatwaves in urban areas. Photo: Unsplash

Heatwaves in South Africa a major threat to life, warns expert

Urban settlements are in life-threatening danger due to heatwaves in South Africa which are likely to increase in frequency and magnitude.

Heatwave temperature record Cape Town

Rising temperatures are causing dangerous heatwaves in urban areas. Photo: Unsplash

Heatwaves pose a major threat to people living in urban settlements in South Africa and many lives might be lost without timely planning and action.

The building materials used in cities absorb and trap heat contributing to the potentially deadly Urban Heat Island effect, according to the Institute for Security Studies (ISS).

11 DEATHS ATTRIBUTED TO HEATWAVES IN SOUTH AFRICA

“With rapidly rising temperatures due to climate change, South Africa’s growing urban areas are a ticking time bomb. The building materials used in cities absorb and trap heat, contributing to the potentially deadly Urban Heat Island effect. And while heatwaves are less dramatic than hurricanes, floods and wild fires, they pose a significant threat to health and life,” said Alize le Roux, Senior Researcher at the ISS.

Officially, just 11 fatalities have been attributed to severe heat in South Africa according to the ISS.Yet researchers studying excess deaths through temperature correlations found a very high mortality burden associated with warmer weather.

Nearly 30 000 deaths in the country were directly attributable to increased temperatures from 1997 to 2013, pointing to severe underreporting.

Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) studies on South African cities estimate that the Urban Heat Island effect can increase temperatures by 3°C to 10°C compared to a city’s hinterland. Those most at risk are the poor, elderly and young, people living in informal dwellings without proper insulation and ventilation, those reliant on public transport, and communities without access to green spaces and water.

READ: Relentless heat wave across six provinces to persist into Sunday

HEATWAVES TO INCREASE IN MAGNITUDE AND FREQUENCY

The worst is yet to come and the next couple of decades will bring more heat stress as temperatures rise and heatwaves increase in magnitude and frequency.

“The most significant risk will be in Upington and Kimberley (Northern Cape), Mahikeng (North West), Bloemfontein and Botshabelo (Free State), Lephalale and Musina (Limpopo) and Mbombela (Mpumalanga),” said Le Roux,

Projections show that heat-related deaths among the elderly in South Africa can climb from a baseline of two deaths per 100 000 to as many as 20 to 50 deaths per 100 000 by 2050.