Climate Change Overview

Country Summary

This page presents high-level information for South Africa's climate zones and its seasonal cycle for mean temperature and precipitation for the latest climatology, 1991-2020. Climate zone classifications are derived from the Köppen-Geiger climate classification system, which divides climates into five main climate groups divided based on seasonal precipitation and temperature patterns. The five main groups are A (tropical), B (dry), C (temperate), D (continental), and E (polar). All climates except for those in the E group are assigned a seasonal precipitation sub-group (second letter).  Climate classifications are identified by hovering your mouse over the legend. A narrative overview of South Africa's country context and climate is provided following the visualizations.

The Republic of South Africa, located in the southern tip of Africa shares boarders with six countries: Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, and Lesotho (the last of which is landlocked by the South African territory). The country’s coastline is extensive, approximately 3,000 kilometers (km) long, and starts at the Mozambican border in the east to the Namibian border in the west. The Indian Ocean lies on the east coast of South Africa and the Atlantic Ocean on the west coast, with the two oceans meeting at the country’s southernmost reach, Cape Point. South Africa’s land area totals 1,219,602 km2. The Great Escarpment is the country’s most prominent and continuous relief feature. The escarpment divides the country into four distinct regions: the interior plateau, the eastern plateau slopes, the Cape Fold belt, and the western plateau slopes. The interior plateau lies at approximately 1,200 meters (m) above sea level and extends from the Kalahari Desert in the west, to the grasslands in the east and the semi-arid Karoo in the south. The Great Escarpment comprises the Roggeveld Scarp in the south west, which sits at an elevation of 1,500 m above sea level and the KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg in the east, with an elevation of 3,482 m above sea level. Nearly one fifth of the extensive coast has some form of development within 100 m of the shoreline, where natural buffers against storm surges and rising seas have been degraded.

South Africa has a population over 59.3 million people (2020) and over two-thirds of which currently resides in urban areas, a rate expected to increase to 72% and 80% by 2030 and 2050, respectively. South Africa is especially vulnerable to water and food insecurity, as well as impacts on health, human settlements, infrastructure, and critical ecosystem services. The country has integrated its climate change strategies with its development framework in support of robust plans to eliminate poverty and eradicate inequality. A central strategic focus is on the sustainability of the environment, water resources, land management, agriculture, and health.