El Niño Update – December 2023

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]El Niño Update – December 2023

By Mlungisi Shabalala, 01 January 2024

The latest assessment of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) signal shows that the key oceanic and atmospheric variables in the central-eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean remain consistent with the ongoing strong El Niño conditions. Almost all climate models suggest sustenance of the strong El Niño signal throughout the summer season into early autumn (see Australian Bureau of Meteorology and International Research Institute for Climate and Society for detailed information on climate models).

Based on the sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean (ENSO zone of interest), the ongoing El Niño cycle may potentially be amongst the four strongest El Niño cycles on record. El Niño conditions typically result in below-normal rainfall in South Africa. However, the impact of the ongoing El Niño cycle on rainfall has, so far, been minimal.

During December 2023, uMngeni-uThukela Water’s area of operation received relatively normal to above-normal rainfall, as suggested by the October 2023 climate model predictions. As a result, most dams were above full supply capacity at the end of December 2023, similar to the end of December 2022.

Site Name Today (%full) Last Year (%full)
 Henley Dam 110 110
 Hazelmere Dam* 82 523
 Umzinto Dam 102 100
 Inanda Dam 104 108
 iMvutshane Dam* 71 85
 Mearns Dam 108 129
 Nagle Dam 101 96
 Spring Grove Dam 73 102
 Nungwane Dam 101 101
 Albert Falls Dam 99 107
 Home Farm Dam 117 106
 Olifantskop Dam 105 114
 Ludeke Dam* 76 75
 Midmar Dam 92 102
 Mhlabatshane Dam 101 101
 Spioenkop Dam 102 101
 Wagendrift Dam 102 105
 Goedertrouw Dam 101 102

*Dam levels managed for safety reasons.

Although most global climate models suggests that an El Niño cycle is currently underway and will be sustained throughout the summer season, the latest model predictions indicate a likelihood of above-average rainfall in the central and north-eastern parts of the country (including UUW’s operational area) throughout the summer season. However, stakeholders are encouraged to conserve water resources as we approach mid-summer, which is typically characterised by high temperatures. Water users are also encouraged to remain alert and follow weather updates (as well as warnings) from the South African Weather Service. uMngeni-uThukela Water will issue an update at the end of January 2024.

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