The rest of the rainfall season is going to be hot and receive normal to slightly below normal rainfall, the Department of Meteorological Services (DMS) has warned.
Announcing the seasonal rainfall and temperature outlook for the period between January and April 2019, the DMS’ iconic weatherman, Radithupa Radithupa said, “For the months January, February, and March 2019 the season will generally be a normal to slightly below-normal rainfall season”.
Normal rainfall in the driest areas of Kgalagadi is expected to range from 100mm while the wetter areas in the north should receive 320mm over Chobe district.
For the period of February, March and April the Chobe district, eastern parts of Ngamiland (areas around Nxai Pan), northern parts of Central district and Kgalagadi are expected to continue to experience normal to below-normal rainfall.
The remaining areas of the western parts of Ngamiland, Gantsi, Southern, Southeast, Kgatleng, Kweneng, Northeast and southern parts of Central district are expected to receive largely normal with a tendency to above normal rainfall.
DMS also said that in April – a month that is crucial for crop development – there is an increased chance of more rainfall in some areas.
Although the seasonal outlook shows that the rainfall would be normal, the heat is expected to be above normal countrywide, which could be a recipe for disaster for farmers.
Even though Radithupa warned that the expected high temperatures could cause high evaporation rates, which would be disastrous for certain crops. He advised farmers to rely on agronomists from the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security.
Radithupa, however, advised that the DMS forecast is only a prediction and relevant only to a seasonal time scale and relatively larger areas. He said local and month-to-month variations might occur and their department will keep providing updates.
He said as climatologists they advise farmers to go plough because the rains are coming, but each area should consult
Interestingly, the question of whether the late onset of rains that Batswana have been experiencing in recent years suggest that the local seasons have changed, is a matter of intense debate amongst DMS experts.
At the rainfall forecast meeting, a vehement Radithupa argued that there was no conclusive scientific evidence showing that the seasons had shifted.
Esther Verena-Jansen, also from DMS, on the other hand strongly disagreed with Radithupa, saying that there was a ‘good study’ that proved that the “behaviour of rainfall has changed and the rainfall season has indeed slightly changed”. She did not quote the study.
Traditionally the onset rains in Botswana arrive in early October. The first rains are called sephai, which announces the arrival of the new season.
But the build up starts in September, the month of ‘sick clouds’ – Lwetse in Setswana, as the clouds promise to pour down rain.
October is the month that Batswana named after the baby impalas, (Diphalane) – because they (baby impalas) are dropped just after the first rains when it starts to get really green with good grazing grass.
The arrival of the baby impalas marked the New Year and new season for the people of the greater Kalahari as the rains renewed the land that was bitten by the cold desert winds.
Nowadays the rains arrive much later than October, with some areas getting their first rains much late in December.
In addition, the rain season has increasingly become affected by a mid-season dry spell usually occurring early in the New Year and playing havoc with farmers’ plans. The DMS has said the mid-season dry spells appear set to continue in years to come.