Climate change in the Olifants River Catchment
The local climate is heating up: Research suggests that in South Africa, there has been an increase in mean annual and maximum temperatures. In addition, the frequency of hot extremes has increased, whilst that of cold extremes has decreased between 1962 and 2009 (Kruger and Shongwe 2004, Kruger and Sekele 2013). These projections are equally true more locally for the Olifants Catchment.
Increase in frequency and intensity of extreme rainfall events: Studies have shown an increase in extreme rainfall in the south-western and eastern parts of South Africa during most of the 20th C (Easterling et al. 2000, Groisman et al. 2005), along with increases in the intensity of high rainfall events in the 1961–1990 period relative to 1931–1960 over much of South Africa. All of this points to an increased flood risk in the Olifants Catchment.
The rainfall season has shifted and dry spells are more common: Seasonal shifts have been observed in Limpopo with a later onset of seasonal rainfall accompanied by increased dry spells, or a continuous stretch of time without rain, and fewer rain days (Thomas et al. 2007). Consequently, there is an increased risk of drought and reduced rainfall.
Consequently, there is an increased risk of floods, drought and heatwaves in the Olifants Catchment. These climatic hazards will impact on water and terrestrial natural resources and will impact both directly and indirectly on human well-being, livelihoods, and economic development. For example, heatwaves can directly impact our health through increased disease risks, and on livelihoods through greater stresses on agricultural production. Increased temperatures and drought can exacerbate poor water quality issues, and water shortages for drinking, food production and industrial development. Floods can affect water quality and increase the risk of water-borne diseases, as well as increase the risk of injury, loss of life, and damage to infrastructure.