Climate change continues to affect the globe

Pretoria - Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached new record levels in 2015, says the South African Weather Service (SAWS).

The weather service on Wednesday said this is according to data released by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

"Nations can expect hotter temperatures, more intense drought and more intense rainfall and flooding episodes directly threatening lives, livelihoods and property.

"According to the climate records of SAWS in 2015, South Africa experienced the driest year on record since 1904," said the weather service.

It said this can be attributed to variability in weather patterns due to climate change and the El NiAo phenomenon, which is expected to subside by June 2016.

The weather service said the resultant drought has been associated with an unprecedented frequency of heatwaves.

It said South Africa recorded 48.4 C in Vredendal in October, the highest recorded temperature in the world for October, according to the WMO, while 31C maximum temperature records were shattered across South Africa in early January 2016, during yet another strong heatwave.

WMO revealed that globally, the period 2011 to 2015 has been the hottest on record, with the year 2015 the hottest since modern observations began in the late 1800s. January and February 2016 are said to have been recorded as the hottest months to date.

"South Africa is a signatory to the Paris Agreement concluded at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) in December 2015. The Paris Agreement is a legally binding agreement that commits all countries to cut carbon emissions.

"The Department of Environmental Affairs and SAWS will continue to support the production of climate information and services to support Climate Resilience, Adaptation and Mitigation," said the weather service.

The weather service continues to play a key role in advancing South Africa's transition to a low-carbon, inclusive, resource efficient and climate resilient economy. As climate change and variability is a cross-cutting phenomenon, the weather service said its mandate is impacted by both the National Development Programme (NDP) and South Africa's National Climate Change Response Policy.

Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa has underscored the important role of weather forecasting in government planning, as South Africa and the world continue to feel the effects of climate change.

"The application of vast data resources to the analysis of weather conditions cuts across government departments - ranging from energy, infrastructure, transportation, agriculture, to disaster management and planning. This is particularly pertinent as changing rainfall patterns impact agriculture, food and water security," said the weather service.

On 23 March South Africa marks World Meteorological Day under the theme 'Creating a weather-smart nation - Innovating, Adapting and Facing the Future together'.

World Meteorological Day commemorates the entry into force of the convention that created the WMO in 1950. South Africa is a member of the WMO and has served on the Executive Council since 1994.