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The extent and magnitude of the current drought in South Africa

Publication Date: 
Thursday, February 4, 2016

The CSIR's state-of-the-art earth observation technologies reveal the extent and severity of the current drought in six of the nine provinces, showing the Free State and North West provinces as the most affected.

Contact Person

Tendani Tsedu

+27 (0) 12 841 3417

mtsedu@csir.co.za

The CSIR's state-of-the-art earth observation technologies reveal the extent and severity of the current drought in six of the nine provinces, showing the Free State and North West provinces as the most affected.

"December 2015 has been recorded as the driest December in South Africa in 15 years," said CSIR remote sensing specialist, Dr Moses Cho. Cho has used remote sensing technologies, which reveal an index of vegetation greenness, to indicate the extent and magnitude of the drought over South Africa. The index shows a 15-year average of vegetation greenness for the North West, Gauteng, Free State, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal provinces, revealing that in December 2015, there was a severe decrease in vegetation greenness.

“The satellite imagery derived shows that there has been up to 60% decrease in vegetation greenness in December 2015 in some parts of the Free State and North West,” explains Cho.

South Africa has been severely affected by an El Niño drought in the latter half of 2015 and the beginning of 2016. This has placed a strain on water supplies and agricultural production in the country. This comes after a warning from CSIR’s Principle Researcher, Prof Francois Engelbrecht, of severe temperature increases late last year. Temperatures over central tropical Africa have risen by more than twice the global rate over the last five decades. Moreover, further warming of between 4 – 6 ºC and 3 – 5 ºC, over the subtropics and tropics respectively, are projected to occur by the end of this century, relevant to the present day climate under low mitigation. Engelbrecht’s warning was informed by downscaled regional and global climate models.