A sequence of highly effective tidal surges battered coastal areas in South Africa’s Western Cape, Japanese Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces over the weekend of 16 September. One individual died; vehicles, properties and companies had been broken. The Dialog Africa requested Jasper Knight, a geoscientist who researches coastal processes, to elucidate what occurred.
What drove the flooding?
A essential mixture of three components resulted on this vital flooding. First, a storm surge related to low-pressure climate methods coming onshore. These occur very generally however typically don’t lead to excessive quantities of flooding by themselves.
CONTINUE READING BELOW
Second, low-pressure cells typically lead to sturdy onshore winds, and these can whip up the ocean floor and create large waves which might doubtlessly run additional inland, particularly when the ocean floor is raised.
Third, the coincidence of the storm with the interval of excessive tide (a month-to-month occasion) and equinoctial high-high tide (a seasonal occasion). It’s this mix that’s the trigger right here, not these particular person components in isolation.
What’s a storm surge?
That is the place the extent of the ocean floor close to the coast is quickly raised up and ends in flooding alongside that coastal stretch. Storm surges are brought on by a low strain (cyclone) climate system approaching the shoreline from the ocean. Low strain causes the ocean floor to bulge upwards under the centre or eye of the cyclone, and the magnitude of this disturbance is expounded to the severity of the low strain system – the deeper the low strain cell, the upper the elevation of the ocean floor. That is often on the order of tens of centimetres to at least one metre or so.
Because the cyclone approaches land, the water floor alongside the coast rises.
What’s a spring tide?
Regardless of their title, spring tides are common occurrences all year long. They happen when the solar, Earth and moon are in alignment, and this occurs as soon as each (lunar) month. As well as, there are additionally instances of the yr, across the equinoxes, the place spring tides are larger than common.
We’re very close to the spring (vernal) equinox within the southern hemisphere (which is on or about 22 September). This can be a interval when the solar is aligned overhead of Earth’s equator and so exerts a much bigger tidal pressure on the oceans. This may increasingly have been a contributing issue to the upper water ranges across the coast.
Had been folks sufficiently warned?
Tidal patterns are extremely predictable and this information is broadly accessible for ports or harbours alongside the coast. On this case, the South African Climate Service issued a warning. This info is especially helpful for boaters, fishermen and different coastal customers. Climate patterns are additionally pretty predictable, which is what climate forecasting is all about, so we all know when an enormous storm could also be approaching.
Nevertheless, the web results of all of those components together is much less predictable: though low-lying coastal areas are weak to flooding, forecasters might not know precisely when or how excessive.
The opposite concern right here isn’t just areas being coated by water but additionally the velocity at which the water waves are transferring, which is an element of their destructiveness.
CONTINUE READING BELOW
What sort of emergency measures may very well be put in place?
Native communities have to be warned extra clearly and successfully if there’s a menace of a storm surge and of coastal flooding. Individuals and property (like vehicles, something that’s moveable) ought to be moved from the realm or stored inside. Individuals are likely to need to go to the ocean to observe the waves however this places them at extra danger. Roads ought to be closed off the place doable to maintain folks secure and away from the realm. Floodwater administration via utilizing sandbags and comparable actions ought to be undertaken.
Precisely the identical measures utilized in locations like Florida within the US for decreasing hurricane danger ought to be utilized in South Africa, equivalent to boarding up home windows, maintaining property indoors, evacuating folks from excessive danger areas, and transferring furnishings in homes to the primary ground to cut back flood impacts.
Storm surges – and sea ranges rising in future – should not going to go away so we have to be ready for them.