South African droughts and decadal variability

Johan Malherbe, Bastien Dieppois, P. Maluleke, M. Van Staden, D.L. Pillay

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    47 Citations (Scopus)


    We explore the historical occurrence of extensive droughts over South Africa within the context of decadal climate variability. A Standardized Precipitation Index dataset is developed and used to assess the spatial extent of droughts in South Africa for the period 1920–2014. The most extensive droughts over the period at various time scales are identified and discussed. Results of a wavelet analysis are also presented towards identifying statistically significant regional climate variation with which the occurrence of droughts is associated. The occurrence of drought with respect to the El Niño Southern Oscillation and decadal climate variability is also considered. Significant associations between short-term droughts and decadal variability are pointed out. An overview of global sea surface temperature and Southern Hemisphere sea-level pressure associations with three prominent scales of multi-year climate variability is given. Dry epochs at the most prominent time scales are shown to be significantly negatively related to the Southern Annular Mode and associated sea surface temperature anomalies in the mid-to-high southern latitudes. Relations with the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, Inter-Decadal Pacific Oscillation and ENSO, which are all associated with a Southern Annular Mode of opposite sign, are also highlighted.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)657-681
    JournalNatural Hazards
    Issue number1
    Early online date26 Sept 2015
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2016

    Bibliographical note

    The final publication is available at Springer via .


    • Decadal variability
    • Drought
    • Standardized Precipitation Index
    • Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index
    • South Africa
    • ENSO


    Dive into the research topics of 'South African droughts and decadal variability'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this