Short

A quick post about our current predicaments:

There’s not enough electricity to go around. This is actually very old news, although South Africans continue to complain about it while doing nothing to save the damn stuff when they have it. It’s clear that generally, despite their lack of action to combat the problem, people are very unhappy about it.

The alternative, of course, is gas. We don’t have it plumbed to our houses here in SA like some other countries I’ve lived in, so it comes in big bottles. Well, it would if there wasn’t a shortage of it:

Dear Customers,
As you may have heard through the media, LP gas is currently in short supply in South Africa as a result of planned maintenance on a few of the major refineries in the country.
Please take the time to read the attached letter regarding the LP gas supply issues we are currently experiencing.

I’ll spare you the attached letter, which basically says there’s a shortage of gas, resulting in “unavoidable price increases”. Supply and demand etc etc. People are not going to be happy.

Anecdotally (hey, it works for Prof Tim), there’s also a shortage of diesel in Cape Town. My car doesn’t run on diesel. Mrs 6000’s car does run on diesel – when she can find some to put in it. Same with lorries delivering food and goods all over the country. Less diesel, higher demand, higher prices (although they are somewhat regulated in SA) = unhappy people.

And now, arguably the most serious of all, we have a shortage of water. Figures due to be released this morning will almost certainly indicate that the reservoirs supplying Cape Town are now less than half full. That’s not good, but ironically, it’s less than half the problem as well. The bigger issue is that it’s also not raining on the local farms:

A drought that has probably reduced South Africa’s corn crop for 2015 to the smallest in eight years is also putting at least half the country’s wheat harvest at risk, the largest grain farmers’ lobby said.
Farms in the Western Cape have had little or no rain since the start of the planting season in April and need showers before the end of May, Andries Theron, vice chairman of Grain SA, told reporters Thursday at an agricultural show in Bothaville.

The province, whose wheat fields are rain-fed, produces about 50% of the nation’s harvest of the cereal, data from the Grain Information Service show.
“We started planting in dry soil,” he said. “Usually, our rainy season would start in the middle of April, but it didn’t. We’ve got a hectic season on hand.”

And then this, from Agri Wes-Cape’s CEO Carl Opperman:

“This has been the driest summer the province has seen in many years. Rains that should have already fallen are desperately needed, especially by grain farmers.
“It’s a dry circle that we’ve got at the moment. We will be managing it, so we’re expecting rain in the future. It’s most probably going to be what we call ‘a dry winter'”.

Come now, Carl – drop the technical terminology, can’t you? You’re unnecessarily baffling us with bullshit there. Is there really no language you could have used so that us laypersons could understand?

Looking at the forecast for the coming week, our local grain farmers are going to remain disappointed.

And so… guess what? Less grain supply, no reduction in demand = higher prices. And that means unhappy people.

I’ve never been convinced that a single straw could break a camel’s back. But several big fat straws? Well, maybe we’re in for interesting times ahead.

Looking back: The Daily Mail Weather Outlook for 2012

This goes out to @StephanieBe who is heading out to the UK shortly and read this morning that… er… the UK is about to face its coldest winter for 100 years. Stephanie is Saffa born and bred.
Her genes aren’t cut out to cope with cold Decembers.

Stephanie is afraid.

Fortunately for Stephanie, that “coldest winter in 100 years” thing comes from the Daily Mail.
Regular readers will know that 6000 miles… loves the Daily Mail.

Britain will shiver tonight as temperatures plummet in the first taste of what promises to be one of our coldest winters for a century.
The cold snap is expected to last until the end of the week, creating dangerous conditions on the roads and adding to the misery of those already battling floods.
Temperatures could fall to as low as minus 3C in some places, with snow already falling in the Pennines.

Cold temperatures? In the UK? At the end of November? Whatever next?
Let’s have a look at how November ended when I was over in the UK in 2010, shall we?

 Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 29th November 2010. Is that… snow?!?

But hey, maybe the Daily Mail has upped its weather prediction game since 2010. Let’s have a look at what they thought about 2012, shall we? This Daily Mail headline is from 15th April this year.

Britain faces worst drought since 1976 (and the Severn could dry up by summer)

Officials are concerned that a third dry winter this year could be a tipping point and trigger restrictions for businesses or even further restrictions in homes for the first time in 36 years.
The restrictions are embarrassing for the Government which is showcasing Britain during this year’s Olympics and the Queen’s Jubilee. Parks are included in the hosepipe ban and London’s iconic fountains will be turned off.

Sounds bad. So what actually happened?

Well, here’s a photo I took at Howden Reservoir in Derbyshire in July, slap bang in the middle of the “worst drought since 1976”:

Yes yes, I know that the big wall is supposed to keep the water in, but the fact is that because the incessant rain throughout the summer, the dam was overflowing.

What happened? Let’s turn to… er… the Daily Mail for the answer. Here’s a story from August 29th:

After weeks of wet weather and seemingly never-ending cloud, many have dismissed the last few months as a miserable summer they would rather forget.
Today was no exception as heavy rains fell across many parts of the country as weather forecasters predict that September will bring some sun and reprieve from the wet weather but only for those in the south.
The north of Britain however should brace for more grim weather which is predicted to last until mid-September.

But… but you said that… Oh never mind. At least it wasn’t the wettest summ… oh wait. Yes, it was. Well, that is according to the Daily Mail (31st August) anyway:

The temperatures, which reflect the country’s cold and soggy weather over recent months, have proved this summer has been a complete write-off.
It came as it was revealed yesterday the summer has also been the wettest in England and Wales for a century.

The thing is, I know that forecasting the weather is not an exact science. And long range forecasting is even less exact. So yes, you’re going to get it wrong from time to time. But there’s no disclaimer in Stephanie’s “coldest winter for 100 years” Daily Mail story. There’s no:

However, while we’re telling you about how cold it’s going to be this winter, you might want to remember that we also said that this was going to be the driest summer in almost 40 years and we couldn’t actually have been more wrong about that.

So people like Stephanie who have previously lived a Daily Mail free life (lucky fish) thus far, read it – and believe it. Oops.

Stephanie, I’m no meteorological expert. I can’t tell you if it’s going to be the coldest winter foreverever when you visit the Republic of South Yorkshire this December. I feel that I’m standing on fairly solid ground when I suggest that you probably won’t need to pack your bikini for a day out on the beachfront at Filey, but that aside, it’s winter and I would expect it to be decidedly chilly. Especially when compared with your usual South African December day.

What I can tell you is that you really shouldn’t believe everything anything you read in the Daily Mail.

Happy Holidays!