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El Niño development update and retrospective for SA

Home Infrastructure Environmental – Green Industries El Niño development update and retrospective for SA

THE latest ENSO Reference Group report issued in March 2024, indicates that the 2023/2024 El Niño was one of the top five strongest on record. The report is a summary assessment of the impact of the 2023/2024 El Niño and other developments in South Africa. The researchers note that the 2023/2024 El Niño was associated with a typical pattern of El Niño weather, with a warmer and drier season than the long-term average.

The ENSO Reference Group (ENSO-RG) is a team of researchers from a range of institutions convened by the ACCESS programme hosted at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The group assembled in June of 2023 following the World Meteorological Organisation’s announcement of the official recognition of the 2023/2024 El Niño. The ENSO-RG held a summit at the University of Pretoria to discuss the potential impact of the 2023/2024 El Niño.

They have also observed that the 2023/2024 El Niño was the fourth strongest on record and that global sea surface temperature and global average surface temperatures have breached new records and remain alarmingly high. In South Africa, the impact of the 2023/2024 El Niño is apparent in the comparison of dam capacity levels at the end of this season, which are around 6% lower than they were at the end of the summer rainfall season in 2023. Additionally, it has been noted that maize and soybean production have decreased by approximately 13% and 23%, respectively, as compared to the previous season.

The impacts of this event are offset by the fact that in preceding years, the country received good rain due to the presence of La Niña (the opposite condition relative to El Niño). The ENSO reference group will continue to monitor the situation regarding ENSO and will report accordingly.

The chart plots rainfall over the region as a departure (given on the colour scale) from the long-term average cumulatively for November, December, January and February 2023/24. 100% is equal to that average and anything above (or below) that shows relative excess (or deficit) or rainfall for this period. This demonstrates that the season was relatively drier than average over most of the region except for east Africa.

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