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Press Release 
Adriaan Taljaard 
 WRC supports World Environment Day

The United Nations (UN) General Assembly declared 2014 as the International Year of Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Therefore, World Environment Day on 5 June 2014 will shine the spotlight on SIDS.

Climate change is a major challenge for SIDS, as global warming is causing ocean levels to rise. Due to their small size and isolation, SIDS are more vulnerable to natural and environmental disasters, climate change and sea-level rise. The problems that these small islands face – climate change, waste management, unsustainable consumption, degradation of natural resources, extreme natural disasters in the midst of overpopulation and continuing industrialization – are the problems that face us all.

The two major drivers for the sea-level rise in SIDS are the melting ice caps and the rise in sea surface temperature markedly attributed to carbon based technologies in developed countries.

In backing these challenges the WRC addresses some of these problems by means of promoting coordination, cooperation and communication in the area of water research and development; establishing water research needs and priorities; stimulating and funding water research to priority; promoting effective transfer of information and technology and enhancing the knowledge and capacity-building within the water sector. Among the various climate change projects that the WRC embarked on, the following two high impact projects are directly linked to these challenges:

The first project entailed investigation to understand the impacts of projected changes in tropical systems (in the form of cyclones, tropical lows and easterly waves) from the South West Indian Oceans, how these invade the Limpopo River Basin and the resulting impact with regard to high rainfall distribution in southern Africa. The potential impacts of climate change on extreme hydrological events within the Limpopo catchment by tropical weather systems are investigated. The findings, among others were that tropical cyclones such as Eline (2000) can have devastating effects causing flooding, damage to infrastructure and loss of lives.  


The second WRC project involved the development of an ocean-atmosphere coupled climate model for operational seasonal forecasts as well as the multi-model sea surface temperature forecast system that includes the probabilistic El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) forecasts.  The purpose of the research was to understand the link between sea surface temperature and southern Africa’s seasonal rainfall and temperature predictability. The results indicated that the coupled models were proficient in predictions over the equatorial regions and in distinguishing between hotter and colder events at a global scale. Both models adequately established the observed associations of the intra-seasonal and inter-annual modes with key features of the climate system, such as the ENSO phenomenon, the Southern Annual Mode, and the Pacific South America patterns.  

In recognition of the immense challenge of adapting to a dynamic environment and continuously providing South Africa with valuable research, the WRC has performed at great lengths to remain relevant through the years.

The World Environment Day celebration began in 1972 and has grown to become one of the main vehicles through which the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and encourages political attention and action and the WRC has a specific and dedicated role to play in support of this cause.

Adriaan Taljaard

Water Research Commission (WRC) adriaant@wrc.org.za

Tel: +27123309036


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