Field guide training: Climate and weather – Part 2
Each field guide must be equipped with knowledge about Southern Africa's climate and weather. Our blog article provides you with more detailed information about the climate in South Africa.
The earth's climate is significantly influenced by various factors. On the one hand the rotation of the earth in west-east axis provides for the emergence of all main wind systems, which are for the transport of cold and/or warm air on the planet. Furthermore, the geographical position of the land masses and their proximity/distance to the coasts play an important role. Depending on whether the coastal waters have warm or cold water flows, they provide a more moderate or tropical climate. Furthermore, the location of the land masses determines the climate zone of an area depending on its latitude. The climate at the poles is (ant)arctic and cold, but the closer you get to the equator the warmer it gets. The height of a land mass relative to sea level can also influence temperature, winds and air quality.
South Africa's climate can be described as subtropical. It is characterised by many arid areas and a high number of hours of sunshine, which in turn are caused by South Africa's location at 30 degrees latitude and the associated constant high pressure area. The following factors specifically influence the climate in South Africa:
South Africa has the rough form of a triangle. The two coastal strips (west and east) meet at the southern tip of the continent (see figure below). The cold Benguela Current (west coast) and the warm Agulhas Current (east coast), which influence the respective coastal areas climatically, run parallel to them. The Bengula Current in the Atlantic Ocean moves along the west coast from south to north. It creates an arid climate. The Augulhas Current (also called the Mozambique Current) in the Indian Ocean moves along the east coast from north to south. Due to this current, rather moderate to subtropical temperatures with high rainfall prevail here.
In the east of the country you can find the famous Drakensberg Mountains. If one moves from the coast into the interior of the country, there is a relatively fast increase in altitude up to 3482 meters. This region is also known as the "temperate eastern plateau" because the climate here is rather moderate due to the combination of proximity to the coast and altitude. Note: Temperatures can drop by up to 6.4°C per 1000 m altitude!
South Africa lies between 20 and 30 degrees latitude. The winds associated with these latitudes influence the climate in different ways: The South-West Cape has a rather Mediterranean climate with heavy winter precipitation, while the north-eastern Limpopo Province has a warm tropical climate.
In the further course of this module, the aspects of ocean currents, elevation profiles and latitudes that are important for the climate will be explained in more detail.