Freak Snowstorm in SA

Yes, it is winter in South Africa, but the extent of the storm may be unprecedented.

“It is probably the first time ever that snow has fallen in all nine of South Africa‚Äôs provinces on the same day”

Snow up to 70 cm deep was reported.

Two fatalities were reported. But on the whole the event has been met with pleasure. Hillary Clinton has been named “Nimkita” (bringer of snow) by hosts at an event in Johannesburg. (I suppose we are lucky Al Gore wasn’t along for the ride.)

Is this auspicious or ominous? Or just irrelevant?


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  2. The first-time-ever-snow-same-day-all-nine-provinces stuff seems unlikely, but records have been broken. See:

    Auspicious or ominous? Too early to say.

  3. Reportedly a sudden stratospheric warming just happened over Antarctica, but I haven't looked to see whether it's related. In principle it could be the cause, as SSWs result from vertically breaking Rossby waves that disrupt the polar vortex, allowing cold air outbreaks.

  4. I think there are signs of increased meridional excursions of the jet stream in the southern hemisphere. Such events make the explanation advanced for the northern hemisphere that it is about sea ice retreat problematic.

    On the larger question, snow outbreaks are different from record cold events and fall under increased precipitation variability. As such they are not immediately less likely in the changed climate regime. So I take little comfort in events like this. It's really getting hard to believe that the holocene isn't over and done.

  5. Hmm, are atmospheric effects of low summer ice thought to carry over into the winter in this regard? IIRC, and I really need to read back through all this research, the winter cold outbreaks in the north are being attributed more to snow cover changes.

    Re the SA event, I think the climate there is so moderated that temperatures cold enough for snow are rather close to record cold territory, especially in the northern part of the country.

    Re Antarctic cold outbreaks generally, since last time I heard the southern jet hasn't moved and overall sea ice is basically static, it seems reasonable to think there's some other mechanism at work. The ACC has moved south, though, there's sharp regional warming in the Peninsula region, and sea ice also exhibits differing regional trends, so perhaps there's an explanation therein. Hopefully I can turn up some relevant recent literature on the subject, although I suspect it's getting a lot less attention than it's northern counterpart.

  6. I'm stepping right off into the deep end here, but it looks like the SA outbreak may have originated around the 29th immediately downstream of the Peninsula. Even if so, of course a single event does not make for a trend.

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