#04 2021

Collaborative research to boost our understanding of extreme weather and climate events

Ramontsheng Rapolaki has rejoined the SAEON Egagasini Node as the Professional Development Programme* (PDP) Postdoctoral Fellow with Professor Juliet Hermes. Ramontsheng will contribute to collaborative research into understanding extreme weather and climate events from different perspectives based on numerical models and observations. 

A key focus will be on investigating the underlying physical mechanisms and impacts of past, present and future extremes (such as droughts, heat waves and intense rainfall) on ecosystems over southern Africa. This will be an extension of his PDP PhD work which looked at the nature of extreme rainfall events and moisture transport over the Limpopo River Basin in southern Africa, where it was found that extreme summer rainfall events (October–April) over the basin are linked to cloud-bands (48%), tropical storms (28%), mesoscale convective complexes (14%) and a few cut-off lows (10%).

Furthermore, the Limpopo River Basin was found to be dominated by moisture originating from the tropical (east and north of Madagascar) and subtropical Indian Oceans (over the Agulhas Current), with significant moisture also originating inland over the Congo Basin and occasionally over the Southeast Atlantic Ocean (off Angola).

Summary schematic of main source regions for the Limpopo River Basin. These are: A) tropical northwest Indian Ocean; B) tropical southwest Indian Ocean; C) subtropical southwest Indian Ocean; D) Agulhas Current/Mozambique Channel; E) midlatitude South Atlantic Ocean; F) local continental; and G) tropical southeast Atlantic Ocean. The red lines indicate main moisture paths over the Limpopo River Basin. Also shown is the topography of the region (shaded; m). Source: Rapolaki et al. (2020)

Ramontsheng hopes to contribute to research in African meteorology and climatology, particularly severe weather events in a changing climate.

Prior experience 

Before joining SAEON, he was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Professor Chris Reason’s Laboratory at the University of Cape Town’s Oceanography Department, working on severe weather and convection over southern Africa.

Prior to that, from January to December 2020, Ramontsheng served as a Teaching and Research Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Ocean-Atmosphere Dynamics in the University of Cape Town’s Department of Oceanography. He is also a LaunchPAD (priority on African Diagnostics) Research Fellow working on moisture transport over southern Africa in the coupled model intercomparison project phase 6 (CMIP6). LaunchPAD is an Oxford University-based project.

In 2018 Ramontsheng was named as one of the Top 100 students in South Africa by the GradStar Awards, a programme that recognises the Top 100 university students across South Africa and connects them with potential employers and business mentors.

In his spare time, as a MasterCard Foundation Scholar Alumnus, Ramontsheng mentors a group of the MasterCard Foundation Scholars from various African countries.

Ramontsheng Rapolaki hopes to contribute to research in African meteorology and climatology, particularly severe weather events in a changing climate

Valuable resource

“We are so happy to have Dr Rapolaki back at the node as a PDP Postdoctoral Fellow,” says Prof Juliet Hermes, manager of the Egagasini Node. “Given his expertise on climate and weather systems, we look forward to him being a valuable resource to all the SAEON nodes, helping to understand extreme weather events and the role the ocean plays in them.  

“He is also fantastic at explaining scientific concepts comprehensively and in a way that the public can understand. We have no doubt this will further expand SAEON’s science engagement work.” 


 * The Professional Development Programme of the Department of Science and Innovation and the National Research Foundation aims to accelerate the development of scientists and research professionals in key research areas.