La Nina Influenced Flooding in South Africa

January 24, 2011; 12:40 PM
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A pedestrian crosses a bridge in the rain in Johannesburg. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell)

Heavy rain has caused widespread flooding across South Africa. Heavy rainfall is common during La Niña summers in South Africa, and rainfall for the month of January has been nearly 10 times average in parts of the country. Other nations besides South Africa have also been hit by heavy rain. La Niña has been blamed for flooding across Australia and the Philippines.

More than 100 people have lost their lives in flooding across South Africa. The majority of the deaths have been in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal.

The heavy rain has been widespread across the country. Eight of South Africa's nine provinces have been declared disaster areas by the South African government.

Tzaneen-Grenshoek, in the flood-ravaged KwaZulu-Natal province, has received nearly 7 inches of rain since Friday. This is nearly double what usually falls during the month of January.

Kimberly, located in the nation's west, has had more than 10 inches of rain so far this month. Average rainfall during the month of January is only 2.36 inches. This comes on the heels of a wetter-than-normal December.

South Africa is a major producer of corn, soybeans, and wheat. Farmers usually welcome wetter-than-normal conditions, but it has been so wet, crops have been damaged. In addition, field work cannot be completed with saturated conditions.

Unfortunately, it is likely to stay wetter than average for another month or two, which is usually the case during a La Niña. From 1-3 inches of rain is expected this week across eastern parts of the country. The rest of the country should have half an inch or so.

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