Lesotho is located approximately at latitude 30 degrees south in the interior of Southern Africa. The mesoscale climate is complicated and governed by various weather systems. The inter-annual rainfall variability is great, resulting in low food security, since the growing of crops in the Lesotho Lowlands is almost exclusively rain-fed. Reliable forecasts of austral summer rainfall are thus valuable. Earlier research has shown that the sea surface temperatures (SST) in the Indian Ocean to some extent govern rainfall in Southern Africa. The research presented is part of an on-going project to find suitable oceanographic and meteorological predictors, which can be used in a forecast model for summer rainfall, to be developed later. The first part of this paper investigates the correlation between the average SSTs in the Equatorial Indian Ocean, the Central Indian Ocean, and the Agulhas Gyre, respectively, and rainfall two months later in the Lesotho Lowlands during early austral summer, October until December for the period 1949-1995. No significant correlations have been found, probably because the three ocean areas are too large. In the second part of this paper the monthly SST in 132 grid squares in the Indian Ocean were investigated and found to be correlated with rainfall in the Lesotho Lowlands two months later, October until March. Significant correlations have been found between the SSTs and certain ocean areas and December, January, and February rainfall, respectively. There is significant negative correlation between December rainfall and October SST in an ocean area between Kenya and Somalia across the Indian Ocean to Sumatra. In the area where the Somali Current flows there is also significant correlation between December SST and December rainfall. January rainfall is significantly negatively correlated with November SST in an ocean area, northeast of Madagascar. February rainfall is significantly, but weakly, negatively correlated with SST in a narrow north-south corridor in the Eastern Indian Ocean from the equator down to latitude 40 degrees south.
- Received December 18, 2000.
- Revision received April 20, 2001.
- Accepted September 26, 2001.
- © IWA Publishing 2002