Seven women forging the future of African weather forecasting

The future is female. This increasingly common phrase points to the fact that although women and girls represent half the world’s population, gender inequality continues to be a pervasive human rights issue, stagnating social progress and limiting our potential to create a healthy sustainable future for all.

Persistent gender inequities exclude many women from contributing solutions to global challenges, including climate change. Less than 30 per cent of the world’s researchers are women, and according to the WMO, in 2014, less than one third of all meteorology and hydrology positions were held by women.

This year, in honour of International Women’s Day, we are celebrating women across the African SWIFT programme who have defied the odds and are paving the future for women in weather. While they may come from different countries and have different positions, backgrounds, realities and perspectives, each one plays a critical role in our success and in shaping the future of African weather forecasting.

Coumba Niang, Postdoctoral Researcher at Université Cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD), Dakar, Senegal

Coumba is a research scientist with the African SWIFT team. She is responsible for UCAD’s work on seasonal to sub-seasonal weather prediction, a key timescale for decision-making across sectors including agriculture, healthcare and energy. Currently, she is assessing the potential impact of large scale conditions on the onset over West Africa. She has led capacity-building and training activities between UCAD and ANACIM to build collaborations between researchers and operational forecasters. She has also taken leadership of international activities including interdisciplinary case studies of extreme weather events. Her research improves the timing of the monsoon onset which is important for the Sahelian regions where the economy is mostly based on rain-fed agriculture.

Jemimah Gacheru-Ongoma, Principal Meteorologist, Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD), Nairobi, Kenya

Jemimah contributes to several aspects of the African SWIFT programme, including research on synoptic meteorology which is the key timescale used for responding to high impact events like storms and floods. She also supports monitoring and evaluation for all activities in Kenya.

One of Jemimah’s biggest achievements within the SWIFT programme was leading the organisation of Testbed 1, held in Nairobi in 2019. The testbed was the first event of its kind in tropical Africa and introduced forecasters to new tools, including nowcasting, which are currently being used operationally.

Mami Thioro Diouf, Project Assistant at Agence Nationale de l’Aviation Civile et de la Météorologie (ANACIM) Dakar, Senegal

Mami is a key part of the team responsible for administration, finance and event organisation for projects at ANACIM, the national meteorological service in Senegal.

She is proud to support African SWIFT programme activities, and is currently playing a significant role in the preparation and planning for Testbed 3, a unique event scheduled for September 2021 which will bring forecasters and researchers together to test and evaluate new tools and methods for forecasting in real-time.

Marian Osei, Research Scientist at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, Ashanti, Ghana

Marian is an African SWIFT research scientist studying West African case study storms using statistical analysis. She completed her PhD while working on SWIFT and leads research that improves understanding of the dynamics of storms using satellite remote sensing. She has also applied nowcasting products to monitor storm evolution over West Africa.

Marian is proud of her work to build research collaborations with operational forecasters at the Ghana Meteorological Agency to perform in-depth analyses. Her research has the potential to greatly improve both nowcasting and forecasting, and offers new insight on the seasonal weather variables that control rainfall processes over West Africa.

Masilin Gudoshava, Research Scientist at IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC), Nairobi, Kenya

Masilin leads African SWIFT work at ICPAC, a centre providing climate services to 11 countries in East Africa. Her responsibilities range from research to operational forecasting and project management.

Masilin is proud of her work to develop forecast products and bulletins for climate information users as part of Testbed 2, a two-year process where national meteorological services, universities and forecast users work together to improve forecasts one to four weeks into the future. Her work has contributed to increasing the availability and uptake of tailored sub-seasonal forecasts in the region.

Niry Havana Razanatompoharimanga, African SWIFT Research Fellow at Université Cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD), Antananarivo, Madagascar

Niry was recently awarded a research fellowship with the African SWIFT project in September 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she is based in Madagascar but works remotely with the SWIFT team at UCAD in Senegal.

Her research focuses on improving understanding of the rainy season. In particular, she aims to find the best forecasting model and to set a calendar of the rainy season over Senegal before expanding to other SWIFT partner countries in East and West Africa. Her research improves seasonal forecasting which contributes to food security and livelihoods in Africa.

Patricia Nying’uro, Principal Meteorologist at Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD), Nairobi, Kenya

Patricia is a Principal Meteorologist at KMD. In the SWIFT programme she leads research on sub-seasonal to seasonal forecasts.

In addition to developing forecast products to meet the needs of forecast users as part of Testbed 2, she has also contributed to published research papers with the SWIFT team. One of her greatest achievements included conducting new research to develop a novel forecast product that was previously not offered, improving weather forecasting and better supporting users in key economic sectors in Kenya.