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South Africa celebrates World Meteorological Day 2016

23 March 2016


Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa has underscored the important role of weather forecasting in government planning, as South Africa and the world continues to feel the effects of climate change.

The application of vast data resources to the analysis of weather conditions cuts across government departments – ranging from energy, to infrastructure, to transportation, to agriculture, to disaster management and planning. This is particularly pertinent as changing rainfall patterns impact agriculture, food and water security.

On 23 March South Africa marks World Meteorological Day under the theme:  “Creating a weather-smart nation – Innovating, Adapting and Facing the Future together.”

World Meteorological Day commemorates the entry into force of the convention that created the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1950.

South Africa is a member of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and has served on the Executive Council since 1994.

The South African Weather Service (SAWS) plays a leading role in matters relating to the WMO. It has positioned itself as a preeminent meteorological institution, playing a prominent role in important international engagements such as the WMO’s Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) and in implementing South Africa’s National Framework for Climate Services (NFCS) to feed into the global framework.

One of the responsibilities of the WMO is to monitor global greenhouse gas (GhG) emissions in support of initiatives to reduce global warming.

According to data released by the WMO, greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached new record levels in 2015.

Nations can expect hotter temperatures, more intense drought, and more intense rainfall and flooding episodes – directly threatening lives, livelihoods and property.

According to the climate records of SAWS, in 2015, South Africa experienced the driest year on record since 1904.

This can be attributed to variability in weather patterns due to climate change and the El Niño phenomenon - which is expected to subside by June 2016. The resultant drought has been associated with an unprecedented frequency of heatwaves. 

South Africa recorded 48.4 °C in Vredendal in October (the highest recorded temperature in the world for October, according to the WMO) while 31°C maximum temperature records were shattered across South Africa in early January 2016, during yet another strong heatwave.

Climate research done by WMO also reveals that each of the past several decades has been significantly warmer than the previous ones. Globally, the period 2011–2015 has been the hottest on record, with the year 2015 the hottest since modern observations began in the late 1800s. Furthermore, January and February 2016 have been recorded as the hottest months to date.

South Africa is a signatory to the Paris Agreement concluded at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) in December 2015. The Paris Agreement is a legally binding agreement that commits all countries to cut carbon emissions.

The Department of Environmental Affairs and the South African Weather Service (SAWS) will continue to support the production of climate information and services to support Climate Resilience, Adaptation and Mitigation.

The data, services and products produced by SAWS ensures that South Africa is able to effectively address the challenge posed by climate change. The data produced by SAWS enables stakeholders to make climate smart decisions across critical sectors, from crop production outlooks to the development of Early Warning Systems.

The SAWS continues to play a key role in advancing South Africa’s transition to a low-carbon, inclusive, resource efficient and climate resilient economy.

As Climate Change and Variability is a cross-cutting phenomenon, the SAWS mandate is impacted by both the National Development Programme (NDP) and South Africa’s National Climate Change Response Policy.

In addition to the national implementation of the GFCS, there are specific weather and climate-related opportunities that support the implementation of the NDP directly.

As host of one of only three Global Atmospheric Watch stations, in Cape Point; SAWS, working with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) conducts research and observations on the effects of greenhouse gases (GHG’s) and other atmospheric trace gases.

SAWS also hosts the South African Air Quality Information System (SAAQIS) and works towards the expansion and enhancement of the National Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Network (NAAQMN). 

It is our vision to have an empowered nation that can respond adequately to the impacts of climate change by becoming weather-smart. In this context SMART means a Safe, More informed, Alert, Resilient nation.

For media queries, contact:

Albi Modise
Cell: 083 490 2871

Hannelee Doublell
Cell: 072 222 6305