African countries get new weather forecasting system to predict climate-related disasters

A new weather forecasting system that allows meteorologists to track approaching storms in real-time has been introduced in Africa.

Scientists say the new forecasting system will help in saving lives from climate-related disasters.

The scientists behind the project at the University of Leeds said the technology which is already used in developed countries was only made available recently in Africa.

A principal meteorologist at the Kenya Meteorological Department, David Koros said the new method, which is referred to as nowcasting, was tested in Kenya last year. Since it was introduced in the East-African country, it used often and it has helped with the evacuation of people affected by landslides and mudslides in Western Kenya and flooding on Lake Victoria.

Mr Koros told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that “We had forecasting methods before but they were not as good.”

“It’s very important because we can issue information for the safety of lives, property and the environment,” he added.

Other West African countries including Senegal, Nigeria, and Ghana have teams interpreting the satellite-derived data and sending warnings through an initiative funded by the British government.

A professor of meteorology at Leeds and co-lead of the project Doug Parker said: “Weather forecasting is potentially very valuable to people’s lives in Africa in a way that I think people in northern countries are more detached from.”

In recent times Africa has been experiencing extreme weather conditions. This brings huge losses for most African economies which are dependent on farming and also cause countless deaths due to floods and mudslides.

“If it weren’t for climate change we’d still need to do this, but climate change makes it more imperative because the storms are getting more intense,” said Parker.

But for nowcasting, it uses satellites that monitor changes in the atmosphere, and the information recorded in space can reach the forecasters’ desks in 15 minutes.

Parker explained that this ensures that meteorologists can alert people that there is a storm very close and headed their way.

Even though the forecasts now cover all of Africa and are freely available online, interpreting and disseminating the data is another hurdle they need to jump over.

“As our next steps, we are working to make this information accessible for the ordinary person,” said Parker.

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