South Africa's Weather and Natural Disasters

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One of the many unique aspects of South Africa is its intense cultural background and tradition. It is very common in South Africa to know several myths about different towns and cities and to pass the stories on to each generation. There are some myths that explain all sorts of various aspects of South African life, but more importantly, there are some that relate to the weather. One of these myths has to do with a weather pattern that occurs everyday in Cape Town, and is one of the great myths of South Africa. The myth has to do with Table Mountain, the central mountain in Cape Town. Although the myth has been around for many generations, the weather aspect it relates to is true and still happens today.

To begin, one must understand that Table Mountain sits in the center of Cape Town, while the town inhabits a circular form around the mountain. Table Mountain has become a focal point of the city and attracts many tourists to see it and also some venture up via the cable car. It seems very fitting that this mountain would be the focus of a very famous story in South Africa.

The story goes as follows (it is told in many variations, this is as told by Lauren Smith, who studied in Cape Town in the spring of 2004): Their once was a man in Cape Town who was very well known and respected. He would smoke his pipe more than anyone else in Cape Town. Every afternoon he would smoke on top of Table Mountain. No one could ever out smoke this man, he was simply too good. One day, someone approached him and challenged him to a smoking contest. He agreed, figuring there was no way anyone could possibly out smoke him and he would surely win. The two contestants went on top of the mountain and smoked and smoked all afternoon. They smoked so much that it created huge billows of smoke that collected atop of the men and rolled down the mountain towards the Cape Town. The outcome of the bet is somewhat insignificant in this, because it is the billows of smoke that relate to today’s current weather patterns in Cape Town. In any case, the man realized he was smoking against the devil because the devil wasn’t affected at all by the smoke he was inhaling.

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The man realized the devil could continue to smoke forever with no affects.

Every afternoon clouds roll over Table Mountain and down over Cape Town (as seen in the following photos). As this is happening, people say, “the devil is having a smoking contest on top of the mountain.” While we know this is not true, the myth relates the actual weather events to a story that the people of Cape Town can tell to many generations. The cloud is actually a result of the surrounding oceans and the westerly moving air that prevails below the 30 ° latitude line. This daily event is not only an example of weather in Cape Town, but also a look into the culture of the city and South Africa.

While this myth is clearly not the only instance that humans have made up stories to explain natural phenomena’s in history, it is just one of the many that Cape Town still can enjoy today. And even though they know it is not true, it is an example of how people use stories, such as this myth, to explain things that were at one time mysteries. This little piece of history changes how the people in Cape Town think of their weather. Instead of dreading the clouds that come over everyday, they can appreciate it because it has meaning, despite it being mythical.

Natural Disasters

Natural disasters are a part of every country in the world. Whether it is fire, drought, flood, famine, hurricanes, or a number of other tragedies, there is no escaping these dangerous acts of nature. We have no way of controlling them, no way of fully protecting ourselves from the natural world we live in, and we simply become victims. South Africa is clearly no exception to this.

We decided to compare floods, drought, and fire, with the amount of rain in South Africa, as shown on the following graph. While the fires and drought patterns didn’t seem to yield any specifically surprising results, the instances of rain and the high flood seasons seemed to be surprising.

The chart clearly shows that the most rain comes during May, June, and July (http://www.em-dat.net). But, the floods don’t seem to correlate with the rain and instead the floods come during December, January, and February. These results were very surprising to our study because it seems to go against intuition to have floods not correlate with the rainy season. We pondered why the rainy season didn’t correlate with the floods and how it was that floods were more likely to occur during the December through February portion of the year. Our conclusion is that the floods peak during the dry season, when rain instances are less, because the ground is dry. The floods don’t happen during the wet months, because the ground can absorb the water. Instead water buildup can only become a flood when the ground is hard and dry and therefore can’t absorb the water. This is yet another unique feature of South Africa.

Works used
International disasters database. http://www.em-dat.net
http://www.Cybercapetown.com.
Slrobertson.com
http://www.slrobertson.com/images/africa/south-africa/cape-town/slideshow/photo-14.htm



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