On Monday afternoon the South African Weather Service released an analysis of the incoming tropical storm, Eloise which is heading for Madagascar.

SAWS had a number of scenarios regarding how the massive storm could affect South African shores.

Over Christmas and New Year 2021, another tropical storm, “Chalane” brought heavy rains and flooding to South Africa. Right now,  Eloise continues to develop and is currently positioned off the north-eastern quadrant of Madagascar.

Where will it hit?

“The most likely track Eloise will follow should take it close to the coast of Madagascar tomorrow, as it intensifies further to a Severe Tropical Storm, with sustained winds likely to exceed 100km/h,” said the SAWS.

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“Hence as Eloise makes landfall on this coastline in the latter part of tomorrow, it is likely to cause considerable wind-related damage, as well as delivering torrential rain.”

“Given the steep geographic terrain of eastern Madagascar, flooding and washaways are also a distinct possibility. Moreover, along the coast there will also be a risk of storm surge, especially on the southernmost leading quadrant of the storm system.”

Figure 2. The predicted track for Eloise over the next few days, as supplied by WMO RSMC La Reunion (MeteoFrance). The green shaded region represents the highest confidence region for the position of Eloise. This region expands and becomes larger, as uncertainty increases with increasing lead-time. Eloise is projected to be positioned south east of Beira, Mozambique by midday on Saturday 23 January 2021. Courtesy: RSMC LaReunion


It could weaken as it heads for SA

The good news is that, as Eloise moves across the landmass of northern Madagascar, it will be exposed to increased friction, as the winds interact with the rough land surface. Moreover, Eloise will be deprived of the latent heat energy which it would normally receive from a warm, tropical ocean.

“We can therefore confidently predict that Eloise will weaken significantly during this particular period, said SAWS. “However, later in the lifecycle of Eloise it will without doubt begin to redevelop as it drifts back into the open ocean region of the Mozambique Channel this Friday.”

It MAY head into the north-eastern lowveld region of South Africa

On Friday, Eloise will require close monitoring, as it has the potential to make landfall along the southern Mozambican coastline, between Beira and Vilanculos during the coming weekend.

“Alternatively, Eloise could gradually begin to move on a more southerly parabolic path (often termed a “polewards-accelerating” trajectory), which could potentially take it further down the Mozambican coastline and (possibly) into the north-eastern lowveld region of South Africa.”

What happens if the storm hits SA?

“At the current time, the speculative possibility of Eloise directly affecting South Africa is only one of a multitude of possible outcomes, given the long lead-time, and should be considered to be a “low probability / high uncertainty” worst-case scenario,” said SAWS.

“In light of the above, the South African Weather Service (SAWS) wish to strongly emphasise that, as with any and every tropical system worldwide, there is much uncertainty surrounding the prediction of future development and movement of Eloise.”

Tropical systems are notoriously fickle and unpredictable, often exhibiting very erratic movement. Modern satellite remote sensing as well as advanced ensemble numeric modelling techniques do, however, mitigate much of this uncertainty, at least in the short-term.

Notwithstanding the above, the general public can rest assured that SAWS will continue to be vigilant and to closely monitor the future evolution of Eloise. Further timely updates in relation to Eloise will be issued as and when necessary.


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