Climate predictability has become more difficult to assess over recent years due to continued climate change on a large scale. Rainfall data visualisations show that 2017 was one of the driest years recorded in the history of the Lowveld, as well as some of the hottest temperatures ever recorded in decades. The recent drought in our area is certainly not yet over as we have had to deal with two successive dry years with below average rainfall figures. Our water table and water supply systems are struggling to cope with this impact.
Welcome summer rains brought some relief to some parts of the Lowveld during late January. The rains were sporadic and isolated varying dramatically from reserve to reserve. The SAWC area received approximately 30 mm of rain over this period. This has meant that the bushveld has taken-on a green flush in places and many of the natural pans and waterholes once again hold water. This has caused a sudden change in animal distribution, especially with the larger mammals such as rhino, buffalo and elephant. Follow-up rains are urgently required in our region to break the back of the drought and hopefully normalise the underground water-table once again.
The Seasonal Climate Watch (February to June 2018) reports that the el Nino’ Oscillation is expected to remain in a weak La Nina’ phase through to early autumn (February-March-April) This suggests that above-normal rainfall is to be expected later in the summer rainfall season which can extend towards early autumn for the far north-eastern parts of the country. It is expected that the total rainfall for these areas would rather be more frequent rainfall events rather than more intense events. But having said this, they advise that, as circulation over the equatorial Pacific Ocean does not resemble a typical La Nina phase and as such introduces some uncertainty in the current forecast. (A la Nina phase typically enhances rainfall activities over the summer-rainfall areas of South Africa if the circulation over the equatorial pacific is significant enough.)
Be this as it may, this time of the year is a very special time to be in the bush, it’s a time of abundance and change. The bushveld is full of youngsters as many species give birth, correlating this with the onset of the first summer rains. There seems to be an air of excitement all around. It’s a sight to behold as one flies over the Savannahs watching herds of impalas frolicking and pronking with hundreds of new-born lambs. It’s also a time of easy pickings for many predators, especially apex predators such as wild dogs who take advantage of these easy pickings. These sights from the air, often provide huge relief from the gruesome and heart-breaking poaching scenes, which we have to bear witness to.