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C. J. C. Reason and A. Keibel

Abstract

February–March 2000 saw devastating floods in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Due to the huge damage and loss of life, global media attention was extensive. Less well known is that one of the weather systems that contributed to these floods (ex-Tropical Cyclone Eline) tracked almost 2000 km across southern Africa toward the cool southeast Atlantic and led to substantial rainfall over arid to semiarid southern Namibia (over two standard deviations above average for these two months and the wettest summer since 1976). Less than 5% of southwest Indian Ocean tropical cyclones actually make landfall on the east coast of southern Africa and even fewer significantly penetrate into the interior, because of the relatively dry 1–1.5-km-high interior plateau that covers most of the region. It is argued that the precursor synoptic conditions together with large-scale circulation and SST anomalies over the Indian Ocean associated with a strengthening La Niña were highly favorable for this unusual evolution and track of Eline.

A summary of the accuracy of La Réunion and Met Office forecasts of Tropical Cyclone Eline over the Indian Ocean is given. Over the mainland, almost all countries do not have any NWP capacity, and the challenges and potential solutions for improved forecasting for the region are discussed. It is argued that by keeping informed of current rainfall, vegetation, and soil moisture conditions over southern Africa, as well as evolving climate signals in the tropical oceans, local forecasters could at least be in a state of heightened alert in advance, since these factors significantly influence extreme weather event characteristics in the region.

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