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Minister Edna Molewa bids farewell to SA Agulhas II

03 September 2015


Minister Edna Molewa bids farewell to the SA Agulhas II leaving for Gough Island.

The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Mrs Edna Molewa, today, 03 September 2015, bid farewell to the overwintering team heading for Gough Island with the SA Agulhas II, in Cape Town.

The Gough61 overwintering team will spend 14 months on the island and will conduct research on weather forecasts which impact South Africa, as well as increase the country’s understanding of climate change.

South Africa first established a weather observation base on Gough Island over 50 years ago, sending back timely and critical data to aid in the study of global weather patterns, and with it, the attendant study of climate change patterns and fluctuations. The data is communicated directly to the South African Weather Service (SAWS), it is then distributed internationally for use in global weather prediction and climate models.

The data collected from the Island since 1957 has made a significant impact on the accuracy of the weather forecasts that were provided for the South Atlantic region, benefitting weather predictions over these areas as well as over Southern Africa.

The pioneering research being undertaken by the SA Agulhas II in general, and by the teams stationed at Gough Island; continue to play a critical role in positioning South Africa as a global leader in weather pattern research and meteorology. Most of the severest storms pass over the island which enable planning and mitigation measures to reduce the impacts of these severe weather events in relation to South Africa.

Speaking at the departure, Minister Molewa observed that: “Strengthening South Africa’s research capabilities and collaborating with local and international academic institutions is one of the areas outlined in the National Development Plan (NDP), which charts the course for South Africa’s future development. The NDP affirms the role of research in science, technology and innovation towards achieving this government’s long-term vision of a more globally competitive South Africa. Publicly financed research like that being undertaken by the SA Agulhas II and the teams at Gough Island, are of particular source of pride for us: as they indicate what we all know – that our people are among the best in the world.

Knowledge production and innovation is key to the very important space our scientists occupy; and it is testimony to their extraordinary abilities, not to mention resilience - that South Africa’s weather observations on Gough Island are some of the longest and most complete in the world.”

“Measuring  the ocean water exchange is like taking a "pulse measurement" to note whether the global system is healthy or not. The route the SA Agulhas II will take between South Africa and Gough Island aligns perfectly with the need to further understand these critical processes. Measurements taken by the vessel and subsurface instruments along this route are as a result of sustained efforts by South Africa and its partner countries namely France, Brazil, USA and Netherlands,” said Minister Molewa.

Concluding her address, the Minister wished all the participants embarking on the journey, well adding that, “Gough Island is a lonely place. I have seen the images: it is a harsh terrain where the teams of the South African observation base are the only human inhabitants at any given time. They will brave adverse weather conditions and live and work in isolation for over a year at a time. We as the South African people want you to know we appreciate all you do,” she said.

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