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Unseasonal Floods - Climate Change?

By Michelle Simon - 22 Jun 2011 6:57:0 GMT
Unseasonal Floods - Climate Change?

Free State Province, South Africa: It was 5am when I threw my feet over the 11°C heated bed and landed in -3°C mini-stream of water. I fumbled in the dark half-asleep, thinking I'd left the tap open but then tuned back into the thumping sounds of the constant almost 24-hour rains. The unusual occurrence of winter rainstorms had caused the overflow saturating the garden and making its way into the house.

Down-pours in winter in a very semi-arid landlocked province in South Africa? Bizarre and totally uncharacteristic! The cause - an extreme cut-off low pressure weather system over the central interior of the country, which would be ordinary in spring and autumn but quite extraordinary in winter.

The Renosterspruit, a main feeder tributary in Bloemfontein (capital of the Free State province), burst its banks

Photograph: Michelle Simon 2011

Up to 100 millimetres (mm) of rain fell in 24 hours, compare this to the seasonal summer rains bringing in averages of ± 500 mm per annum.

Rivers in Bloemfontein were flooded and dams overflowed

Photograph: Michelle Simon 2011

The Renosterspruit, a main feeder tributary in Bloemfontein (capital of the Free State province), burst its banks on the 7th June 2011.

Rivers in Bloemfontein were flooded and dams overflowed after two-days of flash floods causing damage to roads, homes and massive losses to farmers in the midst of harvest season. The Free State produces South Africa's maize and wheat, the unseasonal floods have resulted in huge devastation to crops and diminished high yields and regular harvesting time. The costs of stable food like bread and maize is going to sky-rocket, hitting the poorest of the poor the hardest.