Introductory Series: Our famous life giving tablecloth

Posted on 21 June 2013
Table Mountain's life-giving tablecloth.
© Bradclin Photography
Table Mountain’s dramatic tablecloth is almost as famous as the mountain itself. Pouring over the table top like a magnificent waterfall or slowly sneaking through her crevices, this cloud formation creates more than just a dramatic photographic opportunity for tourists, it creates life. The cloud formation is created by moist air rising over the back of the mountain, which then condenses in the cool air of the summit. As the clouds then stream over the precipices, warm air rising from below is dissipated.

Most common in the summer months when Cape Town’s infamous south-easterly wind buffets the mountain, this cloud keeps the top of the mountain moist as the lower reaches bake in the hot summer heat and drought. Droplets cling to plants across the top of the mountain providing them with much needed moisture and in summer months the upper reaches have even been known to become wet and swampy if the cloud remains for a few days. The South African Weather Bureau has estimated that fog precipitation on the mountain, over the course of a year, is about 3 294 mm, double that from rainfall.

Without this extraordinary cloud formation and the moisture it brings, life on Table Mountain would be vastly different and many of the incredible species found on her table top would not exist. So next time we grumble about the south-easter think about the life it is giving up on Table Mountain.

Table Mountain's life-giving tablecloth.
© Bradclin Photography Enlarge