Transformation of African weather services is attainable in the next five years if the right action is taken, according to SWIFT paper
African weather forecasting capability can be greatly increased in the next five years if proper support is given, according to a recent SWIFT paper published in January 2022 in the Bulletin for the American Meteorological Society (BAMS). The authors propose four steps to achieve a transformation of the quality and impact of weather services in Africa and emphasize the need for the international community to be proactive while also recognising the challenges involved. The report was developed from the white paper published by SWIFT last year, where authors stated their vision for the future of African forecasting.
The four steps given in the paper are:
- Improving scientific understanding of African forecasts with modern meteorological knowledge;
- Closer engagement between forecasters and their clients, in the co-production of new services to meet the clients’ needs;
- Transparent, systematic and independent evaluation of weather information, to improve services, justify investment and allow customers to judge competing products; and
- Building the skills of African meteorologists, to take ownership of the co-production of services, by investment in cooperation between universities and forecasting centres within Africa.
Improved forecasting is important in Africa, where many people’s lives and livelihoods are closely associated with the weather. Areas including agriculture, energy and fishing would greatly benefit from better forecasts. Forecasts can also help with the response to extreme weather events, such as the recent floods in Nigeria, or tropical cyclones throughout the continent. This is particularly important as extreme weather is set to increase due to climate change.
History shows that bold ambitions to transform African services can lead to disappointment, and the challenges in taking these four steps should not be underestimated. On the other hand, it is vital that the international community does not give in to pessimism or a laissez-faire attitude. We hope that papers such as this one will give clear and informed advice to decision makers about the potential for significant improvements in African forecasting capacity.
Read the paper in BAMS here.