Some of the millions of people hitting the roads at the weekend squeaked through before any major weather hit. Forecasters said roads that are passable one minute could become treacherous the next as a cold blast on the back-end of the storm turns rain to ice and snow in other countries.
Viewpoint with Wisdom Mdzungairi
Making it harder for forecasters to stay a step ahead, the system was a weird swirl of wintry and spring-like weather as it passed over some areas with freezing temperatures.
It is bad timing for millions of Zimbabweans planning to travel by road during this holiday, which started last Saturday through New Year’s Day, and those hitting the roads for some last-minute shopping.
According to weather forecasters, a lumbering thunderstorm will continue to snarl Christmas-season travel across the country and the forecasters expect rain showers and outbreaks of thunderstorms from time to time.
The unseasonably warm and wet wall of weather now stretching across the belly of the country has already begun and the Christmas break could be even wet, according to the Meteorological Services Department (MSD).
Weather forecasters say thunderstorms or rain showers should continue over the northern parts of the country, whilst the south will have a marked decrease in rainfall activity. Areas to the east of Zimbabwe should be mostly partly cloudy, and mild to be warm later.
The MSD has issued flash flood watches in some parts of the Zambezi Valley.
Possibly more dangerous are regular wind gusts, which could make driving hazardous for motorists, especially those travelling on highways as the roads could be slippery. Once the storm system moves through, forecasters predict cold, but sunny Christmas weather.
The holidays have come at a time World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) scientists reported last week that November set a heat record. They said it was the warmest November on record, across the world, since record-keeping began in 1880.
According to WMO, average global temperature, for water and land surfaces combined, was 56,6 degrees. That’s 1,4 degrees above the 20th century average.
It was the 37th consecutive November with above-average temperatures. The last below-average November was in 1976.
It was also the 345th straight month with above-average temperatures. That’s almost 29 years. No regions of the globe were record cold.
As reported on this column last week, a new study showed: “If greenhouse-gas emissions continue to grow unchecked, the maximum temperatures, rainfall, and other aspects of climate that humans have experienced during the past 150 years will become the new minimum globally by 2047 (give or take 14 years).”
Using emissions scenarios in reports by the Unied Nations-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the team estimated that relatively aggressive efforts to curb emissions could delay the switch by up to 30 years. But even with strong curbs on emissions, the shifts will still take place.
No doubt global warming could further lower the likelihood of the atmospheric conditions that last year shoved thunderstorms. But stronger storms will worsen with global warming, the study found, and outweigh changes in steering currents predicted by the study’s computer models.
But don’t celebrate a rare beneficial climate change prediction just yet. The study’s authors said the once-in-700-years path was only one factor in the massive $50 billion killer Sandy storm in the US. They said other variables such as sea level rise and stronger storms will worsen with global warming and outweigh changes in steering currents predicted by the study’s computer models.
A spate of recent and controversial studies has highlighted unusual kinks and meanders in the jet stream, linking those to extreme weather and loss of sea ice in the Arctic. This new study looks only at the future and sees a lessening of some of that problematic jet stream swerving, clashing with the other studies in a scientific debate that continues.
Scientists agree that future storms will be slightly stronger because of global warming and that sea level is rising faster than researchers once thought. Those factors likely will overwhelm the predicted change in steering currents.
Soggy conditions around the country may or may not delay harvests, cut yields and may be felt well into January as farmers worry there may not be enough feed for livestock when the growing season is over.
As the country enjoy their holidays, cautious must be exercised on national roads. Rains have already been blamed for fatal traffic accidents and power outages in some parts of the country. The weather is not the only headache maker.
So if there is a silver lining, it is that Christmas happens mid-week this year, not that I will be celebrating it myself –in fact I don’t, but that when a holiday falls on a Wednesday it gives travelers more flexibility of either leaving the weekend before, or traveling right before the holiday and extending the trip through the following weekend.