, Volume 2, Supplement 2, pp 3–10 | Cite as

Climate and desertification in Southern Africa

  • Tyson P. D. 


Short-term changes in the general circulation of the atmosphere, which may lead to prolonged periods of drought, are catalysts for producing accelerated desertification. In southern Africa the northeastward thrust of desertification from the western and central arid and semi-arid areas (the Karoo) has long been recognised, but up til 1970 research failed to demonstrate a clear-cut relationship between the process of desertification and long term rainfall data. The application of sophisticated analytical techniques to regional rainfall data showed, however, that spatial and temporal variations in the Southern African rainfall pattern have a striking degree of organization. The summer rainfall region of the northeastern part of the subcontinent experiences 16–20 year fluctuations, in contrast with 10–12 year fluctuations in the all-season rainfall region along the southern Cape coast. Concentrating on regionally averaged data for the summer rainfall region, the author used Fourier analysis to confirm the persistence of the quasi 20-year fluctuations since 1840. The wet spell of the late 1970s is expected to die out by 1982 and may be followed by a dry spell running from 1983 to 1992. Policy and management practices should be geared to prevent further desertification during this period.


Fourier Analysis General Circulation Rainfall Data Rainfall Pattern Northeastern Part 


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Copyright information

© Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tyson P. D. 
    • 1
  1. 1.Dir. of the Climatology Research GroupUniversity of WitwatersrandJohannesburgRep. of South Africa

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