New SWIFT Paper: Capability of CAM5.1 in simulating maximum air temperature patterns over West Africa during boreal spring

Published August 2019 in Modeling Earth Systems and Environment.

Authors: Kamoru A. Lawal (University of Cape Town, and Nigerian Meteorological Agency), Babatunde J. Abiodun (University of Cape Town), Dáithí A. Stone (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory), Eniola Olaniyan (Nigerian Meteorological Agency and Federal University of Technology, Akure), Michael F. Wehner (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory).

This study classified maximum air temperature patterns over West Africa into six groups and evaluated the capability of a global climate model (Community Atmospheric Model version 5.1; CAM) to simulate them. 45-year (1961–2005) multi-ensemble (50 members) simulations from CAM were analysed and the results were compared with those of the Climate Research Unit (CRU) and the twentieth Century Reanalysis data sets. The results show that whilst the CAM simulations underestimate the magnitude of inter-annual variability of boreal spring maximum air temperature averaged over West Africa, they nevertheless demonstrate the ability to reproduce the inter-annual variations of the observed maximum air temperature, with low discrepancies, over West Africa.
This paper results from SWIFT Work Packages R2 and R5.

African SWIFT Cheney Public Lecture: From Extreme Weather to Climate Change in Africa

University of Leeds Cheney Fellow, Dr Benjamin Lamptey, will talk on extreme weather and climate change in Africa, with consideration of the contribution of human activity on the continent and implications for the environment, society and the economy. The talk will be followed by a panel discussion involving several climate and weather experts. The panel discussion will be followed by a drinks reception. This talk will take place in the Michael Sadler Building, Rupert Beckett Lecture Theatre at the University of Leeds on Tuesday 22nd October 2019 from 19:00-21:00 BST (18:00-20:00 UTC).

This lecture is open to the public. Attendance is free but you will need to register in advance. 

  • Please register at this link ONLY if you plan to attend the lecture in-person
  • Please register for to attend the online webinar here

About the lecture: Climate Change in Africa is a big threat to the people, the environment and the economy. Most of the disasters are hydrometeorological in origin and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has projected an increase in the intensity and frequency of extreme events over the continent. While global climate is changing due to greenhouse gas increases, mostly emitted from countries outside Africa, it has been argued since the 1970s that human activities on the land surface in Africa also cause shifts in the climate. It can be hard to imagine how Africa will cope with an increase in the intensity of storms, droughts and heatwaves, when the effects of present-day weather extremes can be so devastating. Is the contribution of land use change to climate change in Africa important to these changes? The presentation will inquire how the present-day weather is viewed vis-à-vis climate change.

About the speaker: Dr Benjamin Lamptey joined the African Centre of Meteorological Applications for Development (ACMAD) in Niamey, Niger as the Deputy Director-General (DDG) in September 2013. He became the Acting Director General of ACMAD cumulatively with the DDG position from 1st January 2017 to 31st December 2018, before joining the University of Leeds, UK, as a Cheney Fellow. Prior to joining ACMAD, he was the Acting Head of the Nautical Science Department and Acting Dean of the Graduate School at the Regional Maritime University in Accra, Ghana. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado USA from 2005 to 2007 after obtaining his doctorate degree in Geosciences (with a minor in High Performance Computing) from the Pennsylvania State University. He started his meteorology career as a Weather Forecaster at the Ghana Meteorological Agency (GMet) and later became the Head of the Climatology Division. He led the creation of the national climatological database. He is a climate modeler but has expertise in Data Management. His current passion is in the transition from research to operations.

The lecture will be followed by a Q&A session and a panel discussion. Panel members will include:

  • Dr Rosalind West, DFID Climate Science Lead
  • Prof Andy Dougill, Executive Dean: Faculty of Earth and Environment
  • Prof John Marsham, Water@Leeds Research Fellow
  • Dr Benjamin Lamptey, Cheney Fellow

Also see the University of Leeds website

African SWIFT Summer School Success in Kumasi

Across the fortnight 21 July-2 August 2019, GCRF African SWIFT held its first International Summer School designed specifically to train the next generation of scientists in tropical meteorology and forecasting techniques. Hosted by SWIFT partner, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, Ghana, the African SWIFT Summer School was organised in collaboration with the Young Earth System Scientists community (YESS). During the two weeks, 45 students from countries across tropical Africa and Europe were taught by experts in the field of tropical meteorology from both academia and operational centres around the world. The programme focused on providing a hands-on learning experience designed to build students’ technical forecasting skills, and included daily lectures, practical sessions and weather forecast discussions covering all aspects of African meteorology, from satellite-based nowcasting to sub-seasonal to seasonal predictions, to forecast evaluation. Students also participated in a Discussion Forum with weather forecast user groups from across Kumasi and the Ashanti Region. The conversations explored ways that forecast information might be improved and linked more closely to the needs of climate sensitive sectors such as agriculture, disaster management and urban planning. As well as important learning outcomes such as improving students’ understanding of weather phenomena and forecasting techniques, the Summer School has also provided a unique opportunity for students to interact with experts and learn alongside peers.

African SWIFT congratulates the students of its first International Summer School and thanks them for all their energy, enthusiasm and hard work. SWIFT also thanks the experts and organisers for their many and valued contributions that led to the Summer School’s resounding success. Particular thanks are extended to SWIFT partner KNUST for all their help in organising and delivering the series of SWIFT events held across the two weeks, and for being such welcoming and accommodating hosts.

Link to summer school insights report from Caroline Wainwright and Vicky Boult on FCFA site.

SWIFT Conversations Guide the Future of Ghana’s Weather Communications

Report from Kumasi, Ghana, July 27th 2019

Two-way conversations between a wide range of ‘users’ of weather information and SWIFT scientists has helped to inspire new ideas on how the Ghana Meteorological Agency (G-Met) and other Met Services across Africa can improve their communications of weather forecast information into the future.

The SWIFT Users Engagement Workshop was led by Dr Philip Antwi-Agyei and Frank Baffour-Ata of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), with involvement from 15 User Group representatives drawn from across Kumasi and the Ashanti Region, Ghana. The Discussion Forum was also attended by over 60 scientists from the SWIFT project and students from across Africa who are attending the SWIFT Summer School based at the College of Science, KNUST.

Following introductions from Maureen Ahiataku (G-Met) and Prof Andy Dougill (University of Leeds, UK, on behalf of the SWIFT project), two group conversations were held exploring ways that weather forecast information can be improved and more closely linked to the specific needs and concerns of different user groups across climate sensitive sectors (including agriculture, forestry, urban planning and disaster management) in Ghana.

The first issue considered was that of severe storm warnings and how they can be used to reduce flooding and related problems across cities such as Kumasi, which has recently experienced extensive flooding and associated losses of life and displacement from homes. On this issue, the SWIFT science team are using satellite monitoring of severe storm development and trajectories to increase the accuracy of weather warnings over a 4-6 hour timeframe, rather than the current 1-2 hour warning period for accurately tracking a storm’s track. This approach, termed ‘nowcasting’, was enthusiastically endorsed by representatives of Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly, the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Ghana Red Cross Society and representatives of Christian Network on Environment and Climate Change (an NGO based in Kumasi), Trash Recycling and Management Organization (TRAMO) and water industries from across Kumasi. One of the participants from the National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO) highlighted “the need for data on flood prone areas in the Ashanti region to facilitate evacuation when warnings are issued.

Urban User Group Discussion on the Value & Uptake of Severe Storm Warnings

The second main discussion topic related to how seasonal (3-6 month) forecasts of rainfall could be improved by the greater use of new sub-seasonal (2-4 weeks) information that can now significantly improve the accuracy and use of weather information in farming systems across Africa. This discussion included Rev John Manu, the Regional Director of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), the Director of the Agency for Health and Food Security and representatives of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Farmers Associations. This group considered the scope to expand from rainfall forecasts to also improve warnings of heatwaves and strong solar intensity that significantly affect animals. They also highlighted the importance for improved training of agricultural extension staff and community leaders on how to use weather information and discussed the opportunities afforded by new mobile phone technologies to complement warnings transferred via community radio and national television forecasts which remain only sparsely used in rural areas. Participants were impressed with the platform this workshop provided to engage users and science.  The Director of Agency for Health and Food Security stated that “the involvement of meteorological information user groups provided mutual learning opportunities and expanded the opportunity for partnerships for co-creating and implementing climate-and weather relevant agriculture projects.”

In summing up, Dr Antwi-Agyei (who is the co-lead of SWIFT’s User Engagement work package) noted that this event was significant as it opens up new routes of conversations between user groups and the SWIFT science team that will continue over the next 2.5 years of the SWIFT project, which is funded by the UK’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). He stated that “this project is critical as it addresses key challenges confronting smallholder farmers and disaster risk practitioners in addressing the threats posed by climate change to Ghana”.  It is also significant to emphasise that similar events will be held in Tamale and Bolgatanga in northern Ghana in the coming weeks / months. Findings from these workshops are important nationally, as they will inform the development of Ghana’s first National Framework for Climate Services.

User Group representatives discussing workshop outcomes with members of the SWIFT science team



Philip Antwi-Agyei receives African Academy of Science Award

Congratulations to SWIFT partner, Philip Antwi-Agyei from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) who is in Nairobi this week to receive a prestigious African Academy of Sciences (ASS) research award.  Philip’s research is one of 21 ground breaking projects from across Africa that have been selected to receive funding from a US $2.5M initiative supporting Africa-led climate science research.

By 2030, the impacts of climate change could cause enhanced levels of extreme poverty, especially in West Africa, where climate change presents a major development challenge with disproportionate effects on agriculture and agro-based livelihoods. Philip’s research project will focus on advancing knowledge on how to mainstream climate information in resilience building in agricultural systems to support sustainable agricultural productivity and economic development in Ghana.

The project will receive funding for a period of two years through the Climate Research for Development (C4RD) initiative, aimed at strengthening links between climate science research and climate information needs to support development planning in Africa.

Philip is SWIFT Co-Lead for the User Engagement and Forecast Evaluation Work Package.

More information on ASS and C4RD

New SWIFT paper: The influence of global climate drivers on monsoon onset variability in Nigeria using S2S models

Published May 2019 in Modeling Earth Systems and Environment; this paper is OPEN ACCESS.

Authors: Eniola Olaniyan (Nigerian Meteorological Agency); Elijah A. Adefisan, (Federal University of Technology Akure and ACMAD); Ahmed A. Balogun, (Federal University of Technology, Akure); Kamoru A. Lawal, (Nigerian Meteorological Agency)

This study considered the implications of rainfall on the sustainability of the socio-economic activities in Nigeria. It assessed the skill of three sub-seasonal to seasonal (S2S) models, CMA, ECMWF, and UKMO, in predicting monsoon onset and its variability over Nigeria. The paper  examined the global drivers modulating the variability and their teleconnections with rainfall onset anomaly. The results showed that each of the models used exhibits unique and different characteristics over each classified region in Nigeria. For instance, all three models are able to simulate the Northwards migration of the onset dates adequately with inherent biases. While the biases of both the CMA and the ECMWF models improve progressively towards the Sahel, the bias of the UKMO model over the Gulf of Guinea is considerably smaller (±10 days). In the case of the onset anomaly, results showed that despite the poor performance of the models over the Gulf of Guinea and the Sahel, there is a considerable improvement in the correlation skill of the models over the Savannah.
This paper results from SWIFT Work Package 6, S2S.

African SWIFT Principal Investigator wins prestigious award

Professor Alan Blyth (far left) at African SWIFT Executive meeting in Nairobi.

We are delighted to announce that African SWIFT Principal Investigator, Professor Alan Blyth from the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS), University of Leeds, has been awarded the prestigious Hugh Robert Mill Award 2018 by the Royal Meteorological Society. The award will be announced and presented at the RMetS Annual General Meeting in London on 15th May 2019. The Society’s awards for excellence in meteorology are held in high regard across the international community. Professor Alan Blyth is an established expert in cloud physics, convection, observations of the atmosphere, atmospheric instrumentation, flooding; and weather forecasts. He currently leads numerous projects within NCAS and the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds.

RMetS website news.

Forecast Users’ Forum takes place in Nairobi, Kenya

The African SWIFT Users’ Forum is taking place in Nairobi, Kenya this week, 30 April to 3 May 2019. Participants will join discussions and provide feedback to the teams of operational forecasters and researchers currently taking part in the SWIFT testbed. Hosted by SWIFT partners, the Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD), and organised in collaboration with FoRPAC, the Users Forum’ aims to:
• Enhance engagement between weather forecast users and the providers of weather forecast information in key climate-sensitive sectors including water resources and energy, agriculture and livestock, and disaster risk management.
• Provide important feedback and user evaluation of real-time forecasts prepared by SWIFT testbed teams.
• Discuss current forecast provision and delivery and so identify areas for development. Interactive sessions between the testbed teams and the Users will evaluate forecast usefulness and propose for how weather and climate services in Kenya can be improved.
• Consider the challenges of communicating and working with forecast uncertainty.
The Users Forum forms part of the African SWIFT Work Package 1: Users, part of Strand 1: User engagement and forecast evaluation which is responsible for the interdisciplinary engagement needed to link forecast users requirements with the provision of quantitative measures of forecast accuracy

African SWIFT tests state of the art weather forecasting methods in tropical Africa

In partnership between UK and African scientists, African SWIFT is testing new state of the art, weather forecasting methods in tropical Africa. These methods have the potential to save lives and mitigate the economic damage caused by severe weather events.

During the two weeks, 23 April-6 May, a team of GCRF African SWIFT researchers and operational forecasters met in Nairobi, Kenya to conduct a weather forecasting testbed. Hosted by SWIFT partners, the Kenya Meteorological Agency (KMD), the testbed brought together researchers and operational forecasters from across West and East Africa, to engage in the developmental testing of forecasting systems in a quasi-operational environment.

Teams created forecasts, testing in real time current forecasting and “nowcasting” capability, as well as newly proposed methods, with the aim to gain insight into the issues faced in producing and delivering forecasts, and to work to improve both forecasts and their delivery to user groups in Africa. The teams tested new methods, highlighted areas for improvement in the methods currently used, and developed closer working relationships between the academic and operational forecaster communities and forecast user groups. Following on from the testbed, African and UK scientists are working together to develop and put into place further improvements to the forecasting and nowcasting systems, and evaluate their benefits for users of the forecasts.The scientific focus of the SWIFT testbed is the integration of research and operational practice in the area of synoptic weather forecasting and nowcasting.

The African SWIFT Testbed aims to advance forecasting science and to bring about step changes to the delivery of forecasting in Africa in three key areas:

Nowcasting: Many of the forecasting products or tools developed by meteorologists have, to date, focused largely on European weather systems and consequently have been of limited use to forecasters in Africa. The SWIFT testbed set out to evaluate a set of these products, the NWC SAF Nowcasting software, to determine how the tools can be adapted to African weather systems, and so advance forecasting techniques in Africa. Teams of scientists considered factors such as temperature thresholds and time-ranges, to determine how these can be adapted to work with African weather features and dynamics, and so advance forecasting capability.

During the two weeks, testbed teams, for the first time in Africa, tested and evaluated convection permitting ensemble (CP ensemble) forecasting. They used a set of models, designed by SWIFT partners at the UK Met Office specifically for the Testbed, to provide measures of confidence in the accuracy of forecasts of storms. CP ensembles have been used for several years now, in the UK and elsewhere, to improve forecast confidence, but so far they have not been used in African weather forecasting. Convective storms are highly chaotic, and it is very hard to have confidence in the results of a single forecast. An ensemble model provides the forecaster with several forecasts of the same event, from which they can judge how likely that event may be. It is during the SWIFT testbeds that these ensemble models were used in Africa for the first time. Given the high incidence of convective storms in Africa, and the severity of many of those storms, the addition of ensemble models to the range of tools available to African forecasters, introduces the potential for a step change improvement in forecasting confidence across the continent.

During the testbed, the Nairobi teams engaged directly with African forecast user groups at a Users’ Forum that ran at the same time as the testbed. The workshop was organised by SWIFT and KMD in partnership with the ForPAc project. Stakeholders representing different forecast user groups and economic sectors, such as the Red Cross, farming and fishing communities, water resources agencies, and the oil and gas industry, took part. Users were given the opportunity to view real-time forecasts produced by the testbed teams, using newly developed visualisation tools, and to feedback their impressions.  The testbed teams created bespoke forecasts for the user groups, who each require forecasts based on different geographical areas and timescales. As well as forecasts based on different areas and timescales, the testbed also looked at adapting their forecasts for the different user groups by using different delivery methods such as text bulletin, numerical forecasts etc. A major effort in the testbed was to conduct systematic evaluation of the forecasts. This included evaluation of the quantitative information in a forecast, such as the timing and location of rainfall, as well evaluating the usefulness of forecasts for the users.

African SWIFT Principal Investigator Professor Doug Parker comments, “Africa experiences some of the most intense storms on planet Earth, and these storms are increasing in intensity due to climate change. Meteorologists have developed new methods to observe and predict these storms, and to provide warnings which can help people to take action. We are very excited to be trialing some of these methods for the first time in Africa.”

Organisations involved in the testbed include:

  • African Centre of Meteorological Applications for Development (ACMAD), Niger
  • Agence Nationale de l’Aviation Civile et de la Meteorologie (ANACIM), Senegal
  • Ecole Panafricane de Météorologie et d’Aviation Civile (EAMAC)
  • Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA), Nigeria
  • Towards Forecast-based Preparedness Action (ForPAc), Kenya (funded by the UK’s NERC/DFID through the ‘Science for Humanitarian Emergencies and Resilience’ (SHEAR) Research Programme
  • Ghana Meteorological Agency (GMet)
  • Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD)
  • IMTR-Nairobi, Kenya
  • Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Ghana
  • National Centre for Atmospheric Sciences (NCAS), UK
  • Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet), Nigeria
  • UK Met Office
  • University of Leeds, UK
  • University of Reading, UK
  • Université Cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD), Senegal
  • University of Nairobi, Kenya
  • South Sudan Meteorological Department
  • Tanzania Meteorological Agency
  • Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA)
  • WMO RTC, Lagos, Nigeria

More testbed news coverage: 

SWIFT Team Reports on Cyclone Idai

Report prepared by:

From the University of Leeds: Beth Woodhams, Hellen Msemo, Declan Finney, Sam Hardy, Emmanuel Likoya

From the Kenya Meteorological Department: David Koros

Described by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) as one of the ‘worst weather-related disasters to ever hit the southern hemisphere’, Cyclone Idai caused devastation over south eastern Africa during the first two weeks of March 2019. Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe were the worst-hit countries, with almost 3 million people estimated to have been affected.

Figure: 500 mb geopotential height anomaly during Cyclone Idai, made using images from

Idai began as a cluster of thunderstorms just off the Mozambique coast. This cluster, with associated wind speeds of ~35 mph, was designated as a ‘tropical depression’ on 4 March. Initially, the system moved northward, weakening to a ‘low pressure system’ as it moved over Mozambique and into southern Malawi. Between 7 and 8 March, the track of the low pressure system looped and curved back toward the east, guided by the steering flow around a near-equatorial ridge to the north. During this time, southern Malawi was particularly affected by heavy rains. The associated flooding caused the President of Malawi to declare a state of disaster.

As the system moved back into the Mozambique channel, low vertical wind shear and high sea surface temperatures (exceeding 30°C) caused it to re-intensify. The system was designated as a cyclone and named Idai at 23Z on 9 March, with wind speeds of ~75mph (equivalent to category 1 on Saffir-Simpson scale).

By 11 March, the near-equatorial ridge to the north had weakened and a subtropical ridge was strengthening to the south-west, causing the cyclone to change direction toward the south west. During this time, Idai strengthened to an equivalent category 2 cyclone. On 12 March, the cyclone underwent an eyewall replacement cycle which temporarily weakened it back to a category 1 storm. Still under the influence of the subtropical ridge, Idai’s track became more westward during 13-14 March and the system strengthened to an equivalent category 3 cyclone, with wind speeds around 125 mph.

Idai made landfall in Beira, Mozambique late on 14 March. Although wind speeds weakened during 15 March as the cyclone moved inland, the remains of the circulation persisted, causing heavy rains in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi (which was still recovering from the previous flooding).

Cyclone Idai was forecast well in advance, with prediction by the Météo-France La Réunion office that a ‘mature, high-intensity, system’ would make landfall over Mozambique during 14-15 March at least 4 days in advance. During the formation and lifetime of the system, the MJO was in phases 3-4, initially with relatively high amplitude. Klotzbach (2014) have showed that these phases are associated with increased cyclone activity close to eastern Africa in the Indian Ocean.

In addition to heavy rain and flooding in the south, Idai affected countries further north by delaying the onset of the long rains. In Kenya and Tanzania, dry conditions prevailed as moisture influx into the countries was reduced. This delay was not anticipated in the initial seasonal forecast, which predicted a timely onset of the rains. However, both Kenya Meteorological Department and Tanzania Meteorological Agency issued updates to their seasonal outlook to reflect the effect of Idai.

The impact of Idai has been wide-ranging and long-lasting. Whilst it was well-forecast by models and information and warnings generally appear to have been issued, it is unclear whether appropriate actions were taken by organizations working on the disaster risk reduction and the general public.

The GCRF African-SWIFT project aims to increase public trust of weather forecasts by working with meteorologists and decision-makers in the region to improve the communication of severe weather events. The project will also improve methods for forecasting a range of other weather systems in Africa, including storms, squalls and droughts and which are often predicted very badly, in comparison to the relatively good forecasts of Idai.


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