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Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Des Van Rooyen. Picture Credit: Gallo Images
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Cape Town set to experience bigger storms

By unknown | Mar 04, 2010 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Cape Town should brace itself for bigger storms dumping massive amounts of rain as climate change takes hold, an environmental expert said.

Cape Town should brace itself for bigger storms dumping massive amounts of rain as climate change takes hold, an environmental expert said.

Gregg Oelofse, the city's head of environmental policy, was speaking yesterday at the release of a report on his department's ongoing sea-level rise risk assessment project.

The report found that given the "weak" outcomes of last year's Copenhagen climate change summit, the world was assured of a minimum global temperature increase of 2 to 3 degrees Celsius.

"These temperature increases ... make our coastal vulnerability as a very real concern holding multiple implications for our city.

"The risks associated with sea-level rise events can no longer be viewed as something to be addressed in the future, but must be considered as a priority in our immediate planning and management," the report said.

Researchers said areas that were "highly vulnerable" to a rise in sea level included Blouberg, Camps Bay, Kommetjie, Glencairn and the entire Strand beachfront.

Oelofse said it was unlikely that the spectacular storm that hit the city's Atlantic seaboard and then battered False Bay in August 2008 was the result of climate change.

But, its impact was in line with what researchers were suggesting climate change would cause.

"What our model is suggesting is that what we have seen on our coastline, is what we are going to see more of in the future as a result of climate change," he said.

The best predictions for climate change were that Western Cape was likely to be a drier area in the future.

"But linked to that is that we're likely to see our storms getting bigger when they do come," Oelofse said.

"So instead of having the storms we're used to with drizzly rain for two weeks nonstop, we'll see these bigger storms that come with a massive amount of rainfall in a very short time."

At the time of the 2008 storm 18-metre swells were recorded off Scarborough on the Atlantic coastline, Oelofse said.

When that storm turned its attention to False Bay, the swells pushed salt water up eight city blocks into the stormwater drainage system at the Strand.

He said if the city and its people made "smart choices" now, they could dramatically reduce the risks that comes with rising sea levels.

This would mean that the phenomenon was not something people need to be "panicked or scared about" or see as a calamity.

Among exposed areas where decisions were needed in the next couple of years were the eroding Milnerton golf course and the railway line at Glencairn beach.

Mayoral committee member for the environment Marian Nieuwoudt said there were many solutions, but the city had to decide which ones it could afford.

"Capital cost is a once-off, but what can we maintain if we start with the process?" she asked.

A good example of this was Baden Powell drive along the False Bay dunes which is regularly blocked by blowing sand. - Sapa


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