Extreme Temperature Diary- Wednesday April 13th, 2022/Main Topic: Deadly South African Flooding Linked with Climate Change

The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track planetary extreme, or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials).😉

Main Topic: South African Flooding Linked with Climate Change

Dear Diary: The last few days I’ve been emphasizing domestic issues in association with the climate crisis. Today I see a need to focus our attention on one international item, which begs for attention as our main topic of the day. First up are heavy rains, which continue to plague the southern African area.

By now most of us dealing with the climate issue are very aware that a warming atmosphere due to carbon pollution holds more moisture. That moisture, more often than not, gets released over large areas of the planet depending upon weather patterns in association with an also affected meandering jet stream. We can see on the Pivotal Weather chart below the culprit for heavy rain across South Africa that has been milling around that country for days…a weak closed low at 500 millibars:

What has happened over South Africa over the last several weeks is appalling, culminating in the last several days with the deaths of 45 individuals.

Here are details from the New York Times:

Heavy Floods and Mudslides Leave at Least 45 Dead in South Africa

Torrential rain left a trail of destruction in the coastal city of Durban — the latest disaster in a season of storms that some scientists say has been intensified by climate change.

https://www.nytimes.com/video/players/offsite/index.html?videoId=100000008300766

Days of torrential rain unleashed floods and mudslides around the coastal city of Durban, leaving homes destroyed, infrastructure damaged and dozens dead. Credit Credit…Rogan Ward/Reuters

By Lynsey Chutel April 12, 2022

JOHANNESBURG — Days of heavy rain on the eastern coast of South Africa left at least 45 people dead rivers burst their banks and mudslides swept through the city of Durban and the surrounding area.

The death toll is expected to rise as members of the South African National Defense Force were called in to assist emergency rescue teams in the KwaZulu-Natal province, government officials said Tuesday. Along the coast, vacation homes and shacks alike were swept away in a part of the country known as a getaway for its sun, beaches and warm temperatures.

“We were all surprised by the magnitude of this storm,” Mxolisi Kaunda, the mayor of Durban, said in a news briefing.

Storms have already caused devastation in several countries in the Southern African region this year, displacing thousands of people and leaving dozens dead. Some scientists attributed the destruction in part to a storm season intensified by rising global temperatures.

The island nation of Madagascar has been worst affected, hit by a cyclone and four tropical storms that left at least 178 people dead during February and March.

But the storms, originating in the southern Indian Ocean, pummeled the mainland as well. Thousands were displaced along Mozambique’s coastline, with flooding reaching as far inland as landlocked Malawi and Zimbabwe. South Africa’s eastern KwaZulu-Natal province also saw heavy rain and flooding in February.

A collapsed road following heavy rains and winds in Durban.
A collapsed road following heavy rains and winds in Durban.Credit…Phill Magakoe/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

On Tuesday, a new storm left much of the city of Durban flooded. Footage from emergency services showed parts of a national highway resembling a river, with shipping containers dislodged and washed away. In Verulam, a township north of the city, two people were killed when a house collapsed overnight, according to a local emergency services team.

Residents sought refuge on higher ground, climbing onto the roofs of houses, office buildings and a Hindu temple, according to rescue workers.

In Tongaat, a town 40 minutes north of the city center, a woman driving home with children in the car on Monday evening was swept away when a stream swelled to a gushing river that broke its banks, said Bilall Jeewa of Gift of the Givers, a charity group. The bodies of the woman and two children were found, but the body of a third child presumed dead had yet to be recovered.

The floods also brought landslides that destroyed roads and homes in the region. The lower floors of seaside holiday apartments along the north coast were buried by reddish-brown mud, while hillside homes hung precariously after their foundations were washed away, according to video shown on national television.

Shanty towns built along rivers were among the most vulnerable, and shack homes were washed away by floodwaters or covered by mud and debris.

A damaged fuel tanker at the Blue Lagoon beach following heavy rains and winds in Durban.
A damaged fuel tanker at the Blue Lagoon beach following heavy rains and winds in Durban.Credit…Rajesh Jantilal/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In a shantytown in Clare Estate, a suburb north of the city, residents dug through mud, metal and wood to try to rescue a family of five trapped in their shack — but the rescuers were too late, said Robert McKenzie, a spokesman for the KwaZulu-Natal Emergency Medical Services.

Even as the water receded, emergency workers were struggling to reach the affected areas. By the afternoon, dozens of schoolchildren and their teachers remained trapped in their classrooms, waiting to be rescued, Kwazi Mshengu, head of the provincial education department, told eNCA, a national news broadcaster. Nearly 100 schools had been damaged, and 500 schools in the region were closed, he said.

Large parts of the city were without electricity and water after power stations and water treatment plants were damaged, said Mr. Kaunda, the Durban mayor. The city is still recovering from widespread riots and looting last July, during some of the worst civil unrest to roil South Africa since the end of apartheid.

Rain was expected to continue pounding the area on Tuesday and again later in the week, according to the South African Weather Service.

Clean up operations begin after heavy rains caused flood damage in Marianridge, Durban.
Clean up operations begin after heavy rains caused flood damage in Marianridge, Durban.Credit…Rogan Ward/Reuters

The heavy rains stem from a common weather phenomenon in South Africa known as a cut-off low, in which a low pressure system develops and its flow across the atmosphere is disrupted, resulting in a slow-moving storm.

“It is very common for this time of year,” said Kgolofelo Mahlangu, a forecaster with the weather service, noting that similar heavy rains battered the region around this time in 2017 and 2019.

Some climate scientists are attributing the increase in the intensity of the recent storms to environmental changes. A study published this week by World Weather Attribution, an initiative that specializes in pinpointing the links between climate change and individual weather events, said that “climate change is elevating risk in places where tropical cyclones are already affecting agriculture, infrastructure, livelihoods and lives.”

The study looked at rainfall levels during Cyclone Batsirai and Tropical Storm Ana in January and February. The research, while noting gaps in data from the region, found that human-caused global warming had played a role in making those storms more intense.

A woman stands at her front door after heavy rains caused flood damage in KwaNdengezi, Durban.
A woman stands at her front door after heavy rains caused flood damage in KwaNdengezi, Durban.Credit…Rogan Ward/Reuters

John Eligon contributed reporting from Ulundi, South Africa, and Raymond Zhong from New York. A version of this article appears in print on April 13, 2022, Section A, Page 4 of the New York edition with the headline: Floods and Mudslides Leave Scores Dead in South Africa. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

Here are some “ET’s” recorded over the last couple of days with one wintry precipitation note:

Here is some more March 2022 climatology:

Here is more climate and weather news from Wednesday:

(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article. The most noteworthy items will be listed first.)

Now here are some of today’s articles and notes on the horrid war on Ukraine:

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Guy Walton “The Climate Guy”

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