In 2006/07, South Africa experienced El Niño conditions and suffered terrible droughts. Then, in 2007/08 the opposing La Niña cycle developed, bringing with it above-normal rainfall over the larger part of South Africa. Isolated areas of the eastern half of the country were the exception.
So what’s in store for the rest of the summer season?
Prof Willem Landman, chief scientist of seasonal forecasting at the South African Weather Service, said there are two matters of interest to farmers – whether or not another El Niño is lurking on the horizon, and what can be expected in terms of rainfall.
“After considering a large number of models, it seems we’re most likely to continue in the neutral phase we are in through to mid-2009, which means that either an El Niño or La Niña event is happening,” he said. “However, there are some indications that a weak La Niña event may occur.
“La Niña events are occasionally associated with favourable rainfall conditions over the larger part of the summer rainfall region,” Prof Landman summarised.
He added that there’s strong consensus among state-of-the-art ocean-atmosphere models that a favourable rainfall season over the summer months ahead is likely.
“This means that seasonal rainfall totals can be expected to be above-average,” he clarifies. “In turn, seasonal temperatures could be below-average.” – Robyn Joubert