Johannesburg residents were taken aback on Monday by the unexpected occurrence of the city’s first snowfall in over a decade. This rare event brought a sense of wonderment to both adults and children, with some youngsters experiencing the joy of seeing and playing in snow for the very first time.
The city of Johannesburg experienced its last snowfall in August 2012, although other regions in South Africa commonly witness snow during the winter months of June to August in the southern hemisphere. While snow is more common in certain parts of the country during this period, Johannesburg’s recent snowfall came as a surprise due to its infrequency.
According to Jennifer Banda, who spoke to Reuters, she disclosed that she was pregnant during the previous snowfall in Johannesburg. She mentioned having her photo taken on Nelson Mandela Square, located in the city’s business district, at that time.
Johannesburg residents took to social media to share their reactions to the snowfall, describing it as “pure magic,” “hectic,” and a “wonderful start to the week.” These comments reflect the excitement and awe experienced by individuals in the city upon witnessing the rare occurrence of snow.
According to Professor Jennifer Fitchett, a physical geography professor at the University of Witwatersrand, she explained to South Africa’s Times newspaper that the snowfall in Johannesburg was not expected to persist. She attributed the phenomenon to a combination of increased humidity, cold temperatures, and a cold wind, which contributed to the temporary snowfall event.
In a photograph captured by Wikus de Wet/AFP/Getty Images, a man can be seen leading a horse in Delta Park, Johannesburg, as snow gently falls. The image captures the serene and unexpected beauty of the snowfall in the city, highlighting the unique and memorable nature of the event.Embed from Getty Images
It happens once every 10 years or so. We’re not an area that has a lot of snowfall and that’s partly because in winter we have dry conditions. We’ve got a strong, high pressure cell which is why we don’t have any or very little rain in winter months. And so don’t have much moisture in the air.”
It last snowed in 2012 and before that 2007, she said.
According to Professor Francois Engelbrecht, a climatology professor at the University of the Witwatersrand, snowfall in Johannesburg typically happens once every five years on average. However, heavier snowfalls like the one witnessed on Monday are more infrequent, occurring once every 10 to 20 years. These insights from Professor Engelbrecht were shared with the Daily Maverick news website, providing valuable context regarding the rarity of the recent snowfall in Johannesburg.
According to meteorologist Wayne Venter from the South African Weather Service, he explained to the Daily Maverick that the conditions leading to the recent snowfall in Johannesburg were not extraordinary and cannot be directly attributed to climate change. Venter emphasized that while the snowfall was notable, it was within the range of normal weather variations for the region.
In the southern part of Johannesburg, specifically in Brackenhurst, a Reuters photographer witnessed children happily engaging in snowball fights and creating snow angels within a school’s grounds.
However, for individuals like Chenjerai Murape, a delivery driver whose motorbike failed to start in the snowy conditions, the snow posed challenges and made daily life more difficult.
“I’m trying to warm the engine so that it can start … otherwise I will kick the bike all day,” he said.
Due to the cold front affecting Gauteng province, which encompasses Johannesburg and the capital city, Pretoria, the South African Weather Service has issued warnings.
In addition to Johannesburg, snowfall was also reported in the coal belt region of Mpumalanga province, where several power stations belonging to Eskom, the struggling utility company, are situated. The snowfall in this area adds to the unique weather conditions experienced across different parts of the country.