Climate Change is here: Are we ready?

By December JG Ndhlovu (ndhlovuj@ymail.com)

Even with the sun out of sight during the early hours of the night, the heat still persists; it feels hot like one is standing in direct sunlight. It is just a day before Christmas and usually these are times when we are struggling to cope with excess rains, but here we are struggling to cope with extreme heat. I remember that for many, many years we have had rains during this time of year, enough if not too much. I remember during the early eighties, we experienced drought but it was never as hot as it is now, never. This is the hottest ever that I have experienced, in fact that 4 days (from 21st  -23th Dec, 2019) were the hottest days that I have ever experienced in my entire life. It was in 2016 when the first rains were delayed and that is the year on which the Nwaritsane and Injaka Dams were at their lowest but we did not have a heat wave like we are facing now, it is extremely unusual.

This phenomenon is believed to be associated with Global Warming and climate change which according to scientists is the rapid depletion of the Ozone layer, which serves as a buffer for the sun’s rays. So this layer is compromised, which is caused by certain gases emitted mostly by industrial activities and human beings burning fossil fuels. This process interferes with the usual climatic conditions and causes irregular and unusual climate patterns.  It seems pretty clear that we are not ready for such drastic and severe bouts of heat; we are surely going to encounter dangerous torrential rains any time. I wonder if we will be able to pull through these natural disasters. I don’t know.

Now taking into consideration the severity of the 4 days of extreme heat, we are concerned about surviving these heat waves if they last for many days; that could really be disastrous judging by the way we struggled to pull through. I feel nervous when I imagine the trouble it may have caused for the elderly, the sick people and the damage to vegetable garden and farms. I still remember vividly the stress of watching my dogs and chickens with their mouths fully opened trying to gasp for fresh air while I was myself struggling for fresh air and sweating profusely.  At some point I literally became confused by the heat to the level of panic, especially during the night. The fruit trees were wilting like they will never recover again.

Below you will see the weather data for this area for the month of December.

Weather Almanac data of the month December from the city of Bushbuckridge Mpumalanga South Africa:

Day Max.
average
Min.
average
Avg. Record
max./min.
Cloud
cover
Humi
dity
Precipi
tation
Wind
1 Dec. 35°C 19°C 27°C 38°C / 18°C 9% 48% 0 mm 12 Km/h
2 Dec. 34°C 19°C 27°C 37°C / 17°C 1% 63% 0 mm 9 Km/h
3 Dec. 35°C 20°C 27°C 38°C / 17°C 19% 52% 0 mm 13 Km/h
4 Dec. 33°C 18°C 25°C 38°C / 13°C 49% 65% 0 mm 16 Km/h
5 Dec. 30°C 17°C 24°C 37°C / 13°C 33% 72% 2 mm 14 Km/h
6 Dec. 29°C 17°C 23°C 33°C / 14°C 32% 60% 0 mm 13 Km/h
7 Dec. 30°C 19°C 25°C 35°C / 14°C 37% 58% 0 mm 13 Km/h
8 Dec. 32°C 19°C 25°C 37°C / 15°C 30% 73% 1 mm 11 Km/h
9 Dec. 28°C 18°C 23°C 40°C / 16°C 60% 65% 0 mm 16 Km/h
10 Dec. 26°C 15°C 21°C 34°C / 11°C 60% 75% 1 mm 12 Km/h
11 Dec. 27°C 18°C 22°C 28°C / 17°C 27% 70% 1 mm 12 Km/h
12 Dec. 30°C 19°C 24°C 33°C / 17°C 0% 55% 1 mm 17 Km/h
13 Dec. 34°C 19°C 26°C 40°C / 17°C 25% 58% 1 mm 12 Km/h
14 Dec. 32°C 18°C 25°C 37°C / 16°C 16% 73% 0 mm 8 Km/h
15 Dec. 30°C 17°C 24°C 35°C / 14°C 25% 73% 2 mm 13 Km/h
16 Dec. 31°C 18°C 24°C 35°C / 16°C 51% 63% 1 mm 13 Km/h
17 Dec. 31°C 19°C 25°C 35°C / 15°C 2% 59% 0 mm 16 Km/h
18 Dec. 34°C 19°C 27°C 35°C / 17°C 10% 53% 0 mm 9 Km/h
19 Dec. 34°C 20°C 27°C 36°C / 19°C 25% 52% 2 mm 8 Km/h
20 Dec. 31°C 19°C 25°C 36°C / 18°C 50% 72% 1 mm 10 Km/h
21 Dec. 36°C 21°C 28°C 41°C / 18°C 1% 38% 0 mm 7 Km/h
22 Dec. 35°C 21°C 28°C 41°C / 19°C 40% 61% 0 mm 12 Km/h
23 Dec. 34°C 20°C 27°C 39°C / 18°C 4% 60% 0 mm 12 Km/h
24 Dec. 38°C 19°C 28°C 40°C / 17°C 3% 44% 0 mm 14 Km/h
25 Dec. 33°C 20°C 27°C 37°C / 16°C 4% 43% 0 mm 12 Km/h
26 Dec. 32°C 20°C 26°C 39°C / 17°C 20% 56% 0 mm 12 Km/h
27 Dec. 34°C 20°C 27°C 40°C / 17°C 60% 64% 0 mm 18 Km/h
28 Dec. 30°C 18°C 24°C 34°C / 17°C 34% 64% 2 mm 14 Km/h
29 Dec. 31°C 18°C 24°C 34°C / 16°C 18% 67% 1 mm 15 Km/h
30 Dec. 32°C 19°C 26°C 33°C / 18°C 0% 63% 0 mm 14 Km/h
31 Dec. 32°C 19°C 25°C 35°C / 18°C 2% 49% 0 mm 13 Km/h

I’m not sure about other areas, but in Bushbuckridge the 4-day heat surge was a real scare as we struggled to breathe the hot air, sweating all day and all night, heart beating faster and I personally felt very stuffy and confused. I wonder how small babies coped with such devastating heat. I can’t imagine what could happen if it lasted for weeks. Unless the government and other stakeholders come with a clear and effective adaptation and mitigation strategy to climate change, we might be heading towards other catastrophes. I think the government and municipalities should roll out a “climate adaptation strategy” in every municipality. The municipal climate adaptation strategies should be developed according to the needs of each individual municipality. A disaster management plan should be developed in every rural area for drought and torrential rains. Establishment of local climate change management centres should be established in every municipality to educate residents about the impacts of climate change and what they can do to Take Action.

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