The jury is still out on whether this Cape Town winter is particularly severe, but sun-worshippers take heart: researchers have found that the Table Mountain National Park is now much warmer than it was half a century ago.
However, that warming trend is probably bad news for many of the park’s unique fynbos plants and other endemic species, which may be struggling to adapt.
Although actual minimum and maximum temperatures have remained relatively constant – apart from April and May, which have both experienced significant increases in the maximum recorded – there’s been a significant increase in the average annual minimum and maximum temperatures, so that it’s now on average 1.25° C warmer than in the middle of the 20th century.
The researchers also found that rainfall events in the Table Mountain National Park are getting slightly bigger than they were during the first half of the 20th century and are happening within a shorter season, while weather stations in some other national parks to the east have recorded huge rainfall reductions.
There are six national parks that conserve unique fynbos vegetation to some degree – Table Mountain, West Coast, Agulhas, Bontebok, Garden Route and Addo – and the researchers have detected significant increases in both monthly, and in annual minimum and maximum, temperatures in four of these parks, including Table Mountain.
Overall, the fynbos national parks – especially those towards the east of the fynbos region that extends into the Eastern Cape – appear to be getting drier, rather than wetter, contrary to climate change predictions.