Original Paper

Theoretical and Applied Climatology

, Volume 115, Issue 1, pp 177-185

First online:

Variability of rainfall characteristics over the South Coast region of South Africa

  • D. WeldonAffiliated withDepartment of Oceanography, University of Cape Town
  • , C. J. C. ReasonAffiliated withDepartment of Oceanography, University of Cape Town Email author 

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Thirty years of daily rainfall data are analysed for the South Coast region of South Africa, a region which experiences substantial rainfall variability and frequent severe drought and flood events, but whose climate variability has not been much researched. It is found that El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) exerts an influence since most wet years correspond to mature phase La Niña years. ENSO also influences South Coast rainfall via increases in the number of cut-off lows in southern South Africa during mature phase La Niña years. A statistically significant correlation between the Niño 3.4 index and monthly rainfall totals, and between this index and the frequency of wet days, exists for two summer months and also for June. There are also changes in the heavy rainfall day frequencies from one decade to another. Examination of NCEP re-analyses indicates that wet (dry) years result from an equatorward (poleward) shift in the subtropical jet, cyclonic (anticyclonic) pressure anomalies over the South Atlantic and South Africa, and increased (decreased) density of mid-latitude cyclonic systems.