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South Africa: Climate-change atlas to launch

30 November -0001

Johannesburg:  South African scientists are about to launch a climate-change atlas capable of giving detailed long-term projections for rainfall and temperature for any town in the country.  Users of the Internet atlas — which will have a similar feel to Google Earth — will be able to zoom in on a specific location and get information about the likely state of their flower beds in 50 years’ time.

Users will also be able to check on the likelihood of droughts, floods or large ocean waves affecting their neighbourhood.  Sea-level rises, changes of vegetation and expected minimum and maximum temperatures will be included in the atlas’s online database, which will be updated constantly.

Initiated by the Department of Science and Technology, the atlas is being developed by a team of scientists and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), who say the project is aimed at promoting public access to scientific information.   Dr Bob Scholes, the co-principal investigator, said: “What the atlas is about is a way of unblocking the pipeline of information from the scientific community into the decision. making community — and further out into the general public. It’s not about dumbing things down. It’s about giving people access to information they need.”

The atlas will be particularly useful to urban planners, policy. makers and government institutions, such as municipalities, who need to make long-term land-use decisions based on environmental forecasts. It is due to come online early next year.  Until now, climate-change predictions have been made on a case-by-case basis, such as a recent CSIR study of a coastal area outside Durban that suffered major damage during a recent storm.

The study predicted the likely extent of further coastal erosion. The new atlas would make this study and every other scientific finding on climate change immediately available.

Scholes said t

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