As routine as a morning coffee, a weather chat is a must in Cape Town – for as diverse as our culture is, so is our weather. In fact, it is nothing unusual for these weather chats to end up as debates, because we all have our own sources and theories.
The recent arrival of two Flowburg stars in the office illustrated just how confusing and erratic the weather can be to visitors and newcomers to Cape Town.
Kate Rau, the new Cape Town manager, says: “I’m amazed at how quickly the weather can come in and affect the visibility, especially the fog.”
The intensity of the wind is what surprised Ryan Levenson, our award-winning graphic designer, the most. “Wow, it gets hectic!” he comments.
So here are some tips for the newbies to get up to speed for their next Cape Town weather chat:
- Table Mountain is a useful way of telling what is about to happen next. If there’s a wisp of cloud creeping over Devil’s Peak, then a south-easter is on the way. A white tablecloth (cloud) hanging over the mountain means you’re probably already hanging onto the lamp poles to get from A to B
- A cloud covering Lion’s Head means there’s a north-westerly drift in the upper atmosphere, and rain is probably on the way. Typically, the north-wester brings rain to Cape Town
- The south-easter typically generates rain for the rest of the country in summer rainfall areas, but sometimes Cape Town experiences a “black south-easter” that brings its own rain with it
- Even the ocean temperatures are moderated by the wind. The south-easter results in the water temperature dropping, due to it churning up the cold Benguela current from the south. Alternately, the north-wester warms the temperature slightly, as it drives the warmer waters from the warm Mozambique Current around the Peninsula
- The south-easter is called the Cape Doctor because it clears away the smog
- And, yes, it sometimes even snows on Table Mountain
Five fun things to do in Cape Town when the south-easter is pumping:
- Kitesurf at Blouberg beach
- Picnic in Kirstenbosch
- Spend the day on Clifton beach (which is in a wind shadow)
- Hike around the base of Lion’s Head
- Visit the Two Oceans Aquarium
So stay tuned to weather channels and look to the mountains for guidance. Be prepared for quick weather changes, and be sure to take a jacket.
Useful weather links: