Africa: countries get new tool to predict climate-related disasters

A new weather forecasting system in Africa has been developed to enable meteorologists to track the approaching storms in real-time. This good news can potentially save lives from climate-related disasters, scientists declared a few hours ago.

The technology is not new. It has already been implemented in developed countries but was not available until recently in most of sub-Saharan Africa, according to scientists behind the project at the University of Leeds.

Image credit Washington Post

“We had forecasting methods before, but they were not as good as this new tool,” said David Koros, principal meteorologist at the Kenya Meteorological Department.

“This new technology is very important because we can issue information for the safety of entire populations, but also properties and the environment too,” he added.

The new method, called “nowcasting”, was tested in Kenya last year. The country now uses it regularly and it has already been very helpful with the evacuation of people affected by landslides and mudslides in Western Kenya and flooding on Lake Victoria, Koros affirmed.

Other countries like Senegal, Nigeria, and Ghana also have employed their teams interpreting the satellite-derived data and issuing warnings through an initiative funded by the British government.

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

Meteorologists managing risks with climate prediction technologies

It is well-known that extreme weather is becoming more common in Africa due to climate change. As the planet warms, the results are transforming in huge losses for the economies that depend on farming, and countless deaths are skyrocketing due to floods and mudslides.

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

“Nowcasting” uses satellites that monitor changes in the atmosphere. The information recorded in space can reach the forecasters’ desks in just 15 minutes.

This new technology also allows meteorologists to alert people that a storm is getting closer and heading their way, said Parker.

The forecasts now cover all the African continent and are freely available online, but interpreting and disseminating the data is a problem that needs to be addressed.

“As our next steps, we are working to make this information accessible for every single person,” concluded Parker.

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