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Detection of changes in temperature and streamflow parameters over Southern Africa.

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It has become accepted that long-term global mean temperatures have increased over the twentieth century. However, whether or not climate change can be detected at a local or regional scale is still questionable. The numerous new record highs and lows of temperatures recorded over South Africa for 2003, 2004 and 2005 provide reason to examine whether changes can already be detected in southern Africa's temperature record and modelled hydrological responses. As a preface to a temperature detection study, a literature reVIew on temperature detection studies, methods used and data problems encountered, was undertaken. Simple statistics, linear regression and the Mann-Kendall non-parametric test were the methods reviewed for detecting change. Southern Africa's temperature record was thereafter examined for changes, and the Mann-Kendall non-parametric test was applied to time series of annual means of minimum and maximum temperature, summer means of maximum temperature and winter means of minimum temperature. Furthermore, changes in the upper and lower ends of the temperature distribution were examined. The Mann-Kendall test was applied to numbers of days and numbers of 3 consecutive days abovelbelow thresholds of 10th and 90th percentiles of minimum and maximum temperatures, as well as abovelbelow threshold values of minimum (i.e. 0°) and maximum (i.e. 40°C) temperatures. A second analysis, using the split sample technique for the periods 1950 - 1970 vs 1980 - 2000, was performed for annual means of daily maximum and minimum temperatures, summer means of daily maximum temperatures, winter means of daily minimum temperatures and coefficients of variability of daily maximum and minimum temperatures. Two clear clusters of warming emerged from almost every analysis, viz. a cluster of stations in the Western Cape and a cluster of stations around the midlands ofKwaZulu-Natal, along with a band of stations along the KwaZulu-Natal coast. Another fmding was a less severe frost season over the Free State and Northern Cape. While certain changes are, therefore, evident in temperature parameters, the changes are not uniform across southern Africa. Precipitation and evaporation are the primary drivers of the hydrological cycle, with temperature an important factor in the evaporation process. Thus, with changes in various temperature parameters having been identified over many parts of southern Africa, the question arose whether any changes were evident as yet in hydrological responses. The ACRU model was used to generate daily streamflow values and associated hydrological responses from a baseline land cover, thus eliminating all possible human influences on the catchment and channel. A split-sample analysis of the simulated hydrological responses for the 1950 - 1969 vs 1980 - 1999 periods was undertaken. Trends over time in simulated streamflows were examined for medians, dry and wet years, as well as the range between wet and dry years. The seasonality and concentration of streamflows between the periods 1950 - 1969 and 1980 - 1999 were examined to determine if changes could be identified. Some trends found were marked over large parts of Primary Catchments, and certainly require consideration in future water resources planning. With strong changes over time in simulated hydrological responses already evident in certain Primary Catchments of South Africa using daily rainfall input data from 1950 1999, it, therefore, became necessary to examine the rainfall regimes of the Quaternary Catchments' "driver" rainfall station data in order to determine if these hydrological response changes were supported by changes in rainfall patterns over time. A splitsample analysis was, therefore, performed on the rainfall input of each Quaternary Catchment. Not only were medians considered, but the higher and lower ends of the rainfall distributions were also analysed, as were the number of rainfall events above pre-defined daily thresholds. The changes evident over time in rainfall patterns over southern Africa were found to vary from relatively unsubstantial increases or decreases to significant increase and decreases. However, the changes in rainfall corresponded with the changes noted in simulated streamflow. From the analyses conducted in this study, it has become clear that South Africa's temperature and rainfall, as well as hydrological responses, have changed over the recent past, particularly in certain identifiable hotspots, viz. the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal where significant increases in temperature variables and changes in rainfall patterns were detected. These detected changes in climate need to be considered in future water resources planning.


Thesis (M.Sc.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2005.


Climatic changes--Africa, Southern., Climatic changes--South Africa., Climatic changes--Research--South Africa., South Africa--Climate., Rain and rainfall--Africa, Southern., Global warming., Global temperature changes., Theses--Bioresources Engineering and Environmental Hydrology.