National 15.8.2016 03:06 pm

Limpopo ‘lava’ possibly linked to climate change

South-eastern side of the burned peatland. Note the shallowtrenches along the side that prevented the fire from spreading, the light white-grey ash and the degradation of the vegetation to the left due to human and animal activity. Photo: Neo Moabi. Picture: Letaba Herald.

South-eastern side of the burned peatland. Note the shallowtrenches along the side that prevented the fire from spreading, the light white-grey ash and the degradation of the vegetation to the left due to human and animal activity. Photo: Neo Moabi. Picture: Letaba Herald.

A community member recently posted a photo on Facebook of a lava-like substance glowing from below the ground.

Climate change can be attributed to an unusual and mysterious lava-like fire of mud and grey ash in a damp wetland area on the outskirts of a village at Zaaiplaas Village in Sehlakwane that was discovered in July, reports the Letaba Herald.

Sehlakwane is situated in the Groblersdal area in Limpopo.

“It is very interesting, this is the second incident of a geological reaction that occurs due to climate change,” Pieter Bosch, geologist at The Council of Geoscience (CGS) said.

According to Bosch, the first geological reaction incident occurred in an eastern direction in the same area at around about the same time.

“Statistics and events confirms that [global warming] is a reality,” said Bosch.

A community member recently posted a photo on Facebook of a lava-like substance glowing from below the ground.

“… The ground is on fire. It is like a volcano. People of Sehlakwane please take note of this unusual stuff,” the post by Mbusi Ka-Mphezulu read.

The Limpopo Provincial Disaster Management Centre (Pdmc) received a call from the Sekhukune District Municipality regarding the emergence of an unusual fire.

The centre has been unable to determine the cause of the phenomena, and the matter was referred to the CGS, according to TimesLive.

According to Bosch, a report on a possible hazardous underground fire at Sehlakwane was received by the CGS on July 28 and the area was visited on August 11.

“The immediate thoughts on the details provided were that the area was or is underlain by naturally occurring peat and that it is possible that this peat has dried out due to the prolonged heat and drought. It is therefore possible that the peat may have caught fire. The extension of this possible peat land is not known and it might be that it extends into occupied property within the area,” according to the CGS report.

The report concludes, that a veldfire apparently ignited the peat, which would under normal circumstances not burn, as it is normally moist.

“The drying of the peat resulted from the prolonged drought and very high temperatures experienced during the summer of 2015/2016. However, the extreme drying out of the peat could have been enhanced by the poor cover of grass and disturbance due to grazing of the vegetation. The upper layers of soil could also have been disturbed and peat was exposed by this disturbance and the cracking of the soil. Furthermore the headwaters that feed the lower portions of the wetland were probably partially influenced by the practice of making excavations to catch the water that normally slowly seeps downwards through the peat,” the report said.

It is thought that the above normal temperatures and prolonged drought caused the ignition of the peat by a veldfire. The activity of humans and grazing animals further exasperated this event, which would under normal natural circumstances not easily occur.

Dried out “cracked” and disturbed vegetation associated with burned area to the left (white ash) of photo. Picture: Neo Moabi

Dried out “cracked” and disturbed vegetation associated with burned area to the left (white ash) of photo. Picture: Neo Moabi

Caxton News Service

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