I remember in my school days, if the temperature hit 40 degrees, the pupils were often allowed to go home.
Cursed be those days that hovered in the high 30s and never quite ticked over although, with hindsight, a good four or so months of school holiday each year is still a decent deal.
Now imagine one of those days that hovered around 40 degrees, with an extra 14 thrown in for good measure, and you have the temperature in the Northern Cape village of Vioolsdrif.
At least according to SA Weather Service forecaster Mbavhi Maliage, with TimesLIVE then running a story headlined “SA village breaks weather record with temperatures soaring to 54°C“.
That would also be the highest temperature recorded in South African history, and the highest anywhere in the world this year.
It wasn’t long before experts had weighed in with their doubts, starting with those Business Insider SA spoke with:
Planet Earth and Storm Report SA first reported the record, but Storm Report later updated its Facebook status to say that the weather station may have been faulty at the time the temperature was recorded.
Dr Peter Johnston, a scientist at the University of Cape Town’s Climate Systems Analysis Group, also weighed in on the debate. He told CapeTalk that a red flag went up. “What was worrisome was 54 degrees is way hotter than it had ever been before and temperatures don’t usually get broken by so many degrees,” he told the radio station.
He added that Vioolsdrif is the last town before one crosses over into Noordoewer in southern Namibia. Vioolsdrif and Noordoewer are separated by the Orange River. The temperature in Noordoewer – on the other side of the river – was only 42 degrees at the same time.
A tweet from French meteorologist Etienne Kapikian illustrated just how much of an outlier that record would have been. He said:
Vioolsdrif’s maximum temperature on 28 Nov can’t have reliably/reasonably been 2.6°C higher than on the 27 Nov (50.1 vs. 47.5).
It should have been in the 44-48°C range, 50.1°C isn’t realistic. And it should have significantly dropped on the 29th instead of showing 53.2°C.
The tweet came with this graph, showing how the neighbouring areas had all seen a drop in temperature that day, but somehow Vioolsdrif’s increased:
Finally, it was today confirmed by the SA Weather Service (Saws) that the temperatures recorded were incorrect, reports IOL.
Not just the record-setting 54 degrees, either:
It said investigations into the data from the weather station revealed there was a problem.
“The service publishes a daily weather bulletin that provides weather statistics on a daily basis. This data comes directly from the instrumentation and is not yet quality controlled; therefore it is considered preliminary data,” a Saws statement said.
“A maximum temperature record of 50.1°C for Vioolsdrif on November 28 was reported on Friday (November 29).
“Investigations into the data from the station revealed that the temperature sensor had just been replaced two days prior, and a decision was made to track the behaviour of the station over the weekend.
“The analysis of this data showed that the behaviour of the temperature sensor was questionable and the preliminary temperature reading of 50.1°C as a new record is therefore invalid,” the service said.
Sorry, Vioolsdrif – your one claim to fame has now been rubbished.
A public service announcement to all Cape Town bosses out there – if it hits 40 degrees at any point in the next two weeks, your employees should be sent home.
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