South Africa greets spring with a heatwave

Southern hemisphere heatwaves are back with us and the South African Weather Service has issued a heatwave warning for the north of the country. It defined the phenomenon as a period of consistently high temperatures which are at least five degrees higher than the average maximum of the hottest month.

Vanepia Phakula, weather forecaster, said the warning is expected to continue through to this weekend, with Gauteng, Limpopo and Mpumalanga being affected.

These are the three northeastern provinces of South Africa: Gauteng covers Johannesburg and Pretoria, the major metropolitan areas; Mpumalanga borders Swaziland and Mozambique, a border it shares with Limpopo, and both these provinces incorporate the Kruger National Park.

At the equinox of September 21, temperatures were around average, but soon afterwards the thermometer soared. Pretoria shows an average temperature of 29C for October, but since the start of the month it's been above that. For the last two days it's been recording 37C.

Skukuza, on the edge of Kruger National Park hit 42C on Monday October 5; it too should expect to be around 29C.

The heat is drifting slowly south and KwaZulu-Natal is next in line.

Pietermaritzburg is forecast to approach the 40C in the next two days.

Pietermaritzburg, in KwaZulu-Natal, is in the midst of the driest year in a century.

As temperatures reach into the 40s this month in Pietermaritzburg, Newcastle, Ulundi and Ladysmith, the Weather service and Umgeni Water have urged people to conserve water and prepare for a dry summer.

"Currently there is a very strong El Nino phase in effect, and there is significant concern for South Africa's summer rainfall areas. The coming summer is unlikely to provide much relief for current drought-stricken areas such as KwaZulu-Natal."

A recent report by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) said that 2015 may be the warmest year ever recorded in Africa.

According to the CSIR this is partially due to climate change, and partially due to the El Nino event currently in evidence in the Pacific Ocean.

Temperatures over subtropical southern Africa have risen at more than twice the global rate over the last five decades. This will not be the only heatwave this year, nor will South Africa be the only country affected.