Monday, November 22, 2010

More About Extreme Weather Conditions


Builders, like farmers are some of the most avid weather watchers in the world. A recent article in the Association’s Newsletter dealt with the impact of global warming and the possibility that the average surface temperatures recorded across the globe for 2010 may be the highest ever recorded. The article also mentions the impact of, and measurement of, so-called "extreme” climate events in the USA measured by means of the Climate Extremes Index (CEI).

Despite dire predictions about the increase in surface temperatures during 2010, many readers will claim that during the recent winter some of the coldest temperatures ever recorded in KZN occurred. This could be largely based on perceptions and there may be no scientific basis to support it. Those who follow weather forecasts will know that Sutherland in the Karoo, is well-known for the South African Large Telescope (SALT), clear starry nights, and icy winter temperatures.

Inhabitants and visitors claim that Sutherland is the coldest town in South Africa. Not so! Say the people of Molteno who also lay claim to living in the coldest town in the country. They say, it all started during the night of 26 June 1996 on the farm Buffelsfontein situated between Dordrecht and Molteno, when temperatures plummeted to minus -18.2 * Celsius.

The farm hosts an official weather station and the South African Weather Service (SAWS), who recently celebrated its 150th anniversary, confirmed this was the coldest temperature ever measured in South Africa. The good folk of Sutherland reject this and counter that Buffelsfontein is a farm, the crown of being the coldest town in South Africa still belongs to them. Sutherlanders say their coldest night was recorded on 12 July 2003, when -16*C was recorded.

A spokesperson for the SAWS said that it is quite difficult to accurately determine the coldest place and ironically neither Sutherland nor Molteno (also a Karoo town) were recorded as the coldest places in South Africa during 2010. At Warden and Fouriesburg in the Free State, the recorded temperature dropped to -8.2*C.

Readers are reminded that the Warden district borders on KZN. Is it possible that besides winning the Currie Cup during 2010, a small part of KZN became the coldest place in South Africa?

Pieter Rautenbach

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