Drought conditions intensify

In December, January and February, the SASCCAL weather station in Windhoek measured the lowest rainfall since 1891. To make matters worse, due to a strong El Niño phenomenon, the remainder of the rainy season does not look any better.

17 March 2019 | Disasters

Swakopmund • Erwin Leuschner



After analysing available data on precipitation and temperatures, the Swakopmund-based hobby meteorologist Klaus Knupp sums up the current situation: “The drought is both unprecedented and catastrophic.”

To prove his point, Knupp sites the extreme heat and low rainfall inland, along with rain data from the SASCCAL weather station in Windhoek, which is located near the botanical gardens. In December last year, 14.8 mm of rain was measured, followed by 3.4 mm in January and only 2.8 mm in February of this year.

“That's a total of 21 mm. From the historical data that I have, this is the lowest rainfall ever recorded,” Knupp said. Since the beginning of the 2018/19 rainy season, a total of 187.2 mm has been measured in Windhoek –30 percent less than in the particularly bad rainy season of 2012/13. “Rainfall in Windhoek is generally representative of rainfall throughout the country,” he added.

Knupp feels the absence of rain-carrying clouds from the East is to blame for the low rainfall this season. “Actually, we should get windy weather from the central Indian Ocean at this time of year,” he said.

Also, in February there were “strange and unusual cold front circulations in the Cape”.

In addition to the low rainfall in February, Windhoek experienced particularly high temperatures in the last month. It was also the second hottest February in the past 14 years.

Even January was much hotter than usual: The average temperature was about three degrees Celsius higher than the average temperature from 2006 to 2015 at this time of the year.

Moreover, according to recent forecasts by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the remainder of the rainy season looks bleak, with most predictions indicating that the existing El Niño phenomenon will continue to intensify.

“It should reach its peak at the middle of the year. We can therefore prepare for this historic drought to continue for the remainder of the rainy season,” Knupp said.

In August 2018 experts already predicted that the 2018/19 rainy season would yield below average precipitation. This forecast was made during the SARCOF (South African Regional Climate Outlook Forum) meeting. Then already experts predicted normal to below normal rainfall for the entire southern Africa, with only exception being Tanzania, which they predicted would get good rains.

In the meantime, Namibians will have to prepare themselves for ­another acute water shortage. According to NamWater, with the exception of the Naute dam at Keetmanshoop, most dams have received very little inflow.

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