Snow, ‘Huka’ and ‘Sneeu’ for the Southern Hemisphere

  • Snow, ‘Huka’ and ‘Sneeu’ for the Southern Hemisphere
    28.07.2011 16:25


    Almost every language has a word for snow, frost and anything distinctly winter related.

    In New Zealand the native Maori word for snow is ‘Huka’. The Afrikaans language of South Africa uses a more familiar sounding word ‘Sneeu’ (pronounced snew). Over the last ten days New Zealand has experienced two major snow events while eastern parts of South Africa glistened with a blanket of snow.  

    It has been a difficult year in New Zealand as its South Island city Christchurch was hit by two devastating earthquakes. This resulted in mixed feelings about the arrival of the winter season. Ski lovers and tour operators are welcoming the two major snow events; away from the slopes there is worry about adverse snow conditions such as dangerous roads, power cuts and fuel shortages.

    The last snow dump during the past twenty four hours surprised 250 skiers at Mount Lyford near Christchurch. Skiers had to sleep overnight in the resorts Café. New Zealand’s South Island and southern half of the North Island are now blanketed in snow.

    South Africa experiences a more temperate climate, varying noticeably from east to west. This is due to the warm Agulhas ocean current, which sweeps southward along the Indian Ocean coastline in the east for several months of the year, and the cold Benguela current, which runs northward along the Atlantic Ocean coastline in the west.

    South African winters can be characterised by three different areas: The interior plateau, where Johannesburg lies, at 1694 metres, the warm coastal areas of the east, and the cool coastal areas of the west. Typically South Africa receives a dusting of snow about once or twice a year and also enjoys a ski season at very high altitudes.

    Last Tuesday a cold front moved through from the Western Cape to KwaZulu-Natal. Unusual bouts of extremely cold weather, combined with heavy snowfalls and widespread showers dumped up to 60cm of snow across parts of the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal states. The main highway between Johannesburg and KwaZulu-Natal was inaccessible for over 200km.

    Many South Africans took advantage of the winter fun with pictures of snow men rapidly appearing on the internet. However, there is a more serious side the recent snow events. Lack of domestic gas for heating in South Africa combined with recent coal mine strikes have left many people vulnerable to the cold conditions.

    By: Aisling Creevey