Insight on the Recent KZN Urban Air Pollution and Climate Change

The University of Zululand (UNIZULU) recently hosted an online webinar to educate UNIZULU staff members and students on the science behind the recent urban air pollution and climate change that took place in Durban and Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).

The webinar was held at the University’s Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at KwaDlangezwa Campus. It was mediated by a respected scholar, Professor Mark Jury, who is a meteorologist at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez in the United States and a researcher at the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at UNIZULU.

The idea of the webinar was to show the connection between air pollution and climate change. The information was shared through sketches to help the attendees to understand the discussion of the day. 

The discussion points during the talk were as follows:

  • In terms of meteorology, climatology, oceanology, and geography, the measurements and recordings of data has yielded different results as equipment has advanced over the years.
  • Climate change is a fact caused by human activities- if not accelerated by humans. Air pollution is much higher during the winter season in Southern African countries, which experience cooler temperatures and dry conditions during this period.
  • Prof Jury mentioned that the advancement of technology has reduced the time it takes to  collect information. He discussed the historical differences in collecting vertical and horizontal information of topography. However, he did highlight that as much as technology has a lot of positives, it does have negatives such as glitches, jumps and infrared issues.
  • Over the past 20 to 30 years, climate change has caused a rise in the sea level. Hence, it has led to the increase of evaporation. Prof Jury explained that the situation is linked to La Nina and El Nino. La Nina refers to the period cooling of ocean surface temperatures in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific. El Nino is a climate pattern that describes the unusual warming of surface waters in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean.
  • Air pollution has detrimental effects to the human body. Summer is a lot clearer hence many people do not have respiratory issues. Winter air is a lot more polluted; it comes with respiratory issues and illness such as influenza and leads to an increase of the Covid-19 death toll.

Prof Mark Jury concluded with affirming that there has been an improvement on air pollution in South Africa. “There has been some effort, especially in South Africa on reducing air pollution, from sources, traffic and so on. Despite the growing pollution, the trends are not up that much. In fact, they are going down. We still have winter peaks that contribute to respiratory problems,” he said.

Prof Innocent Moyo, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering, gave the vote of thanks and noted how the talk could potentially lead to master’s and doctoral research projects.

– Sinenhlanhla Ngcongo

Caption

Professor Mark Jury, a meteorologist from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez in the United States.

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