The fatal floods that wreaked havoc in South Africa in mid-April this year have been attributed to human-caused climate change. The study by the World Weather Attribution group analyzed both historical and emerging sets of weather data relating to the catastrophic rainfall last month. It triggered massive landslides in South Africa’s Eastern Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal provinces and concluded that climate change was a contributing factor to the scale of the damage.
Human-induced climate change contributed largely to this extreme weather event. Scientists need to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to a new reality where floods and heat waves are more intense and damaging.
The scientists said that extreme rainfall episodes like those in April can now be expected about every twenty years. It will double the number of extreme weather events in the region if human-caused climate change had not been a factor. Rainfall is also expected to be about 4 to 8% heavier, the report said.
The floods resulted in the deaths of more than 400 people and severely affected 40,000 others with thousands now homeless or living in shelters and property damages estimated at $1.5 billion. The floods also led to the shutdown of the Port of Durban for several days. The flooding of the Port of Durban is also a reminder that there are no borders for climate impacts.
What happens in one place can have substantial consequences elsewhere. The South African weather service’s Vanetia Phakula said that even though the warning systems that are in place to alleviate the most severe impacts on human life issued an early warning on time. The report’s authors noted that those living in marginalized communities or informal settlements were disproportionately affected by the flooding.
The analysis used long-established and peer-reviewed climate models to account for various levels of sea surface temperatures and global wind circulation among other factors. The results are consistent with accepted links between increased greenhouse gas emissions and greater rainfall intensity.