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Intra-seasonal Rainfall Variability During The Maize Growing Season In The Northern Lowlands Of Lesotho

Mphethe Isaac Tongwane, Mokhele E. Moeletsi
Published 2014 · Mathematics

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Intra-seasonal rainfall distribution was identified as a priority gap that needs to be addressed for southern Africa to cope with agro-meteorological risks. The region in the northwest of Lesotho is appropriate for crop cultivation due to its relatively favourable climatic conditions and soils. High rainfall variability is often blamed for poor agricultural production in this region. This study aims to determine the onset of rains, cessation of rains and rainy season duration using historical climate data. Temporal variability of these rainy season characteristics was also investigated. The earliest and latest onset dates of the rainy season are during the last week of October at Butha-Buthe and the third week of November at Mapoteng, respectively. Cessation of the season is predominantly in the first week of April making the season approximately 137–163 days long depending on the location. Average seasonal rainfall ranged from 474 mm at Mapoteng to 668 mm at Butha-Buthe. Onset and cessation of the rainfall season vary by 4–7 weeks and 1 week, respectively. Mean coefficient of variation of seasonal rainfall is 39 %, but monthly variations are higher. These variations make annual crop management and planning difficult each year. Trends show a decrease in the rainfall amounts but improvements in both the temporal distribution of annual rainfall, onset and cessation dates.
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