Climatic change and interannual variability over southern Africa: a reflection on underlying processes

Mason, Simon J.; Jury, Mark

Quasi-periodicities in annual rainfall totals over southern Africa have been identified; in particular, an approximately 18-year cycle may be related to interdecadal variability in sea-surface temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific and central Indian Oceans. A 10-year cycle along the south coast is related to variability in standing wave 3. Atmospheric anomalies associated with wet and dry years can be related to changes in the frequency, intensity and persistence of important rainfall-producing weather systems and highlight the significance of the strength of the continental heat low and the preferred locations and amplitudes of the westerly troughs. El Niño Southern Oscillation events and sea-surface temperature anomalies in the Indian and South Atlantic Oceans can influence both the tropical and the temperate atmospheric circulation and moisture fluxes over the subcontinent and thus are significant influences on rainfall variability. Evidence for long-term climatic change is not as definitive as in the Sahel, although there are indications of desiccation in some areas since the late-1970s. Increases in temperatures are of approximately the same magnitude as the hemispheric trends and may be attributable to the enhanced greenhouse effect.

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Also Published In

Progress in Physical Geography: Earth and Environment

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Academic Units
International Research Institute for Climate and Society
Published Here
March 24, 2020