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A peek into SAEON's growing climate datasets

By Abri de Buys, Technician, SAEON Fynbos Node
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SAEON's climate monitoring in remote regions that form part of the water supply to major population centres is important to help understand how we may be affected by climate change.

At some of these sites, long historical records provide a baseline for our monitoring, thanks to institutions that predate SAEON. These weather data assist researchers and managers to gain an understanding of the complex relationships between vegetation, fire, human actions and abiotic aspects of the landscape that ultimately influence the quality, quantity and timing of water flowing from the catchments.

Modern monitoring equipment enables remote access to data, which makes it easier for technicians to maintain a steady stream of incoming information that feed into data management systems. It also enables the provision of freely available data directly to the public in near real time.

SAEON currently has five weather stations with published data that update every five minutes (depending on signal quality) and show weather conditions recorded in the last one to four weeks. See the list of stations with links to their websites below.

Drought Monitor

With the current drought South Africa is experiencing, the Fynbos Node has developed a "Drought Monitor" page on our website where we look at the historical rainfall and streamflow records for some stations at Jonkershoek and show how the 2015 and 2016 monthly rainfall figures compare with long-term averages. We plan to update the Drought Monitor at the end of each month.

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View from a vantage point a few metres away from the Fynbos Node's high-elevation weather station (Dwarsberg) at Jonkershoek, showing upper catchment fynbos in the foreground and the Jonkershoek valley towards Stellenbosch below. The mountain chain of which Jonkershoek is a part is a major contributor to the dams that supply water to Cape Town.

As live weather websites start becoming more common, SAEON will continue to add to this increase in available real-time data, especially in a few important higher elevation areas like the mountains of Cathedral Peak, Jonkershoek and the Cederberg wilderness area.

Stations like these not only contribute to SAEON's long and growing climate records, but also aid managers with information, for example about fire weather conditions on the ground. We have received feedback and interest from farmers who keep an eye on the weather in the upper catchments upstream from them, as well as from hikers and mountain rescue teams.

It is our hope that by making our data more visible, SAEON will continue to contribute to the National Research Foundation's strategy aimed at stimulating science engagement with the public.

Live weather websites

 

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