Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

South African Temperatures Rise to Record in El Nino Drought

South Africa’s biggest city, Johannesburg, and the capital, Pretoria, recorded their hottest day ever on Tuesday as a drought caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon drains water supplies.

The temperature soared to 39.8 degrees Celsius (103.4 degrees Fahrenheit) at a weather station at the University of South Africa, eclipsing a Feb. 27, 1960 high of 39.7 degrees, the South African Weather Service said in an e-mailed reply to questions on Wednesday. At the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens a temperature of 36 degrees was recorded compared with the previous record of 35.4 degrees in 1973.

Many other locations had their highest temperatures in decades with Lephalale registering 42.4 degrees Celsius.

Heat Risk

The heat wave could impact crops. The towns of Bloemfontein, Welkom and Kroonstad in the Free State province and North West towns of Rustenburg and Klerksdorp, did not receive any rain on Wednesday, according to, a joint service by Norwegian Meteorological Institute and the Norwegian Broadcasting Corp. and which provides information on South Africa. Both provinces contributed 64 percent of the nation’s corn crop in 2014, according to the Crop Estimates Committee.

“Some of the guys in areas like Mpumalanga have already planted 50 percent of the crop,” Wandile Sihlobo, an economist at the Grain SA farmers’ lobby, said by phone Wednesday. “For that maize, temperatures like these are not playing on their positive side because severe heat poses a risk to anything that is under the ground,” he said, using the local term for corn.

Johannesburg municipality has started refilling two reservoirs in the center of South Africa’s biggest city after they ran dry and left thousands of people with no water, Johannesburg Water said.

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