Global project to improve African weather forecasting

Leeds scientists are part of a £7.8m project to improve African weather forecasting capabilities and benefit the livelihoods of African populations.

The interdisciplinary project, funded by the Global Challenges Research Council, will be led by the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS) and involves seven researchers from across the School of Earth and Environment, Leeds University Business School and School of Computing.

The Leeds team will be among 25 UK and 45 African atmospheric scientists, social scientists and operational forecasters who will undertake fundamental scientific research into the physics of tropical weather systems, evaluation and presentation of complex model and satellite data, and communications and exploitation of forecasts.

The ambition is that African forecasting capabilities will improve on hourly and seasonal timescales, and that a lasting research infrastructure will be put in place that translates benefits to the wider developing world.

Called GCRF African Science for Weather Information and Forecasting Techniques (GCRF African SWIFT), the four-year programme builds upon existing partnerships between forecasting centres and universities in four African partner countries – Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya. Five UK partners, including the University of Leeds, are in the consortium with ten African partners, with the UN World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) acting as advisory partner.

Weather forecast skills are undergoing a revolution and the GCRF African SWIFT will benefit millions of African people who are vulnerable to severe weather events such as storms, droughts and floods by improving safety, livelihoods and contributing to national economic development. Significantly improving the research capacity within African forecasting will also benefit sectors as diverse as emergency response, aviation, agriculture, energy and water.

The GCRF African SWIFT team will work with forecast users to tailor the provision and delivery of weather forecasts, for example by delivering SMS weather warnings to farmers and fishermen. The aim is to ensure improved response to high-impact events (e.g. onset of rains, heatwaves, dry spells and strong winds), improved emergency response to extreme events (urban flooding and prolonged droughts), and increased resilience for response to climate change.

Professor Alan Blyth of NCAS said: “The GCRF African SWIFT project will grow the research base in the UK and strengthen capacity in several African countries for developing and using state-of-the-art satellite tools that will help to improve short time-scale weather forecasts.”

The five UK partners are NCAS, University of Leeds, University of Reading, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and UK Met Office. The ten African Partners are ACMAD, ICPAC, ANACIM, UCAD, GMet, KNUST, NiMet, FUTA, KMet and University of Nairobi.

African Institutions

ACMAD
The African Centre of Meteorological Applications for Development is an institution created by the Conference of the Ministers of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1987 for the purpose of improving the understanding of atmospheric and climatic processes; providing meteorological watch and early warning systems; promoting the training of African scientists; identifying and solving urgent regional climatic problems; and contributing to the strengthening capabilities of the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHS).

ICPAC
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC) is a specialized institution with a mandate to support the formulation of development policy for sustainable development, and to provide timely and sector-specific early warning information to mitigate weather- and climate-related risks and disasters in the Greater Horn of Africa (GHA), which covers eight IGAD member countries (Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda) and three non-IGAD states (Burundi, Rwanda, and Tanzania). ICPAC is also mandated to support and improve the technical capacity of weather and climate information producers and users in the region.

ANACIM
Agence Nationale de l’Aviation Civile et de la Meteorologie (ANACIM) is the National Civil Aviation and Meteorology Agency for Senegal which is improving forecasting at all time scales and developing of products and services for users in line with WMO programmes such Global Framework for Climate Services and Disaster Risk Reduction.

UCAD
Cheikh Anta Diop University (UCAD) of Dakar is a public Higher Education institution based in Senegal with an excellent reputation in Africa for tertiary training, research and service to society. With that 80000 students come from all over the African continent, the faculties of UCAD are amongst the highest performers in research by African Universities. The Laboratoire de Physique de l’Atmosphere et de l’Ocean S. F. (LPAO-SF) which is related to the School of Engineering called Ecole Superieure Polytechnique of UCAD is active in atmospheric, ocean and climate physical sciences, and is involved increasingly in climate impacts on health, agriculture and hydrology.

KMD
Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) is the meteorological operational service provider for Kenya and provides meteorological and climate services to the public and various specialised sectors. The department is also charged with World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) regional responsibility as a meteorological data collection or producing centre (DCPC) communication hub. KMD hosts the WMO’s Regional Training Centre (RTC) – IMTR-Nairobi, and the Regional Specialized Meteorological Centre for severe weather forecasting for the Eastern Africa region.

University of Nairobi
The Department of Meteorology at the University of Nairobi is a research and training hub for weather and climate scientists across Africa at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels as well as in specialised applications of weather and climate to sensitive societal needs and challenges including food and water. The Department of Meteorology at the University of Nairobi was established in 1963 at the request of the East African Community (EAC), the WMO and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to train professional meteorologists for the English speaking countries of Africa.

GMet
Ghana Meteorological Agency (GMet) is the operational meteorological service for Ghana providing meteorological services and ensuring operation and maintenance of international standards and practices in meteorology across the country.

KNUST
Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) is a public tertiary higher educational institution that has the mandate to provide higher education, undertake research, disseminate knowledge and foster relationships with outside persons and bodies. KNUST has expertise in meteorology, climate science and environmental sustainability and development among others.

NiMet
Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) is a federal government agency providing the meteorological operational services for Nigeria. NiMet is responsible for advising the Nigerian Government on all aspects of meteorology.

FUTA
The Department of Meteorology and Climate Science at the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), Nigeria, is the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) University component of the Regional Training Centre (RTC) for West Africa, comprising of leading researchers in the field of meteorology and climate science in Africa. Established in 1984, it has become a well-known weather and climate training institution for producing highly-skilled professionals at undergraduate and postgraduate levels for the region (occasionally also for Eastern Africa), in order to address its weather and climate challenges.

Image: Drought in Africa (Colin Lloyd)