Record-high temperatures hit South Africa as drought worsens

December temperatures reached a record in many parts of South Africa on Sunday and near-record highs are forecast Monday as a heatwave intensifies the country’s worst drought for 23 years.

Pretoria, the capital, will probably reach 39 degrees Celsius (102.2 degrees Fahrenheit), while the temperature in Johannesburg will climb to 36 degrees, Kgolofelo Mahlangu, a forecaster at the South African Weather Service, said by phone.

“It’s going to be extremely hot with a high risk of fire danger in the central and eastern parts of the Northern Cape,” Mahlangu said.

South Africa is in the grip of its worst drought since 1992 as the El Nino weather phenomenon causes dry conditions in the whole sub-Saharan region. The government has declared disaster areas in several provinces as below normal rainfall, forecast to continue for the next four months, damages crops and livestock.

A weather gauge at the University of South Africa in Pretoria recorded a temperature of 38.3 on Sunday, the hottest December day in 12 years, while the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens reached 36.2 degrees, the warmest day this month since 2011, according to data e-mailed by the SAWS.

Stations at Bloemfontein Sunday recorded the hottest December day in 18 years while Pilanesberg and Rustenburg reached the highest in 12 years and seven years respectively. Temperatures in Upington and Kimberley in the Northern Cape, parts of the Limpopo Valley and North West province are forecast to be higher than 40 degrees on Monday, Mahlangu said.

The country’s dams were 61.3 percent full as of Nov. 30, compared to 78.4 percent in the same week of last year, according to data published by the Department of Water Affairs.

 – Bloomberg