The African-SWIFT project launches the sub-seasonal testbed with a kick-off event in Ngong, Kenya

Next week, 18th to 22nd November 2019, Scientists and Forecasters from SWIFT partner Universities, and National and Regional Meteorological Services will gather in Ngong, Kenya for the start of the sub-seasonal testbed. During the week Scientists and Forecasters from Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and the UK, together with the Forecast Users from Cameron, Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria, will discuss the potential for co-producing new weather forecast products with Users to aid their sub-seasonal decision-making.

Part of Strand 2, the African-SWIFT project’s sub-seasonal testbed is a two-year process lead by NCAS and ICPAC, to co-produce more useful weather forecasts for 1-4 weeks into the future. The aim of the testbed is for the African-SWIFT Scientists to work directly with their Users before starting to make the products, so that the forecasts are providing tailored information to the Users. This process is particularly unique as the African-SWIFT Scientists and the Users of forecast information will work in close collaboration, throughout the next two years, to co-create useful products for decision-making processes with the potential to be used across tropical Africa.

The co-production approach has six main building blocks starting with the i) identification of key actors and building partnerships followed by a process of ii) building common ground understanding, reaching to the stages of iii) co-explore needs, iv) co-develop solutions and v) co-deliver those solutions to Users, ending with the vi) evaluation phase. This is an iterative process which will be started at the kick-off meeting and continue through the 2-year testbed


New SWIFT paper: Identifying user needs for weather and climate services to enhance resilience to climate shocks in sub-Saharan Africa

Published October 2019 in Environmental Research Letters

Authors: Elias Nkiaka (University of Leeds)Andrea Louise Taylor (University of Leeds)Andrew Dougill (University of Leeds)Philip Antwi-Agyei (Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology)Nicolas Fournier (UK Met Office)Emily Nyaboke Bosire (University of Nairobi)Oumar Konte (Agence Nationale de l’Aviation Civile et de la Météorologie)Kamoru Abiodun Lawal (Nigeria Meteorological Agency)Bethuel Mutai (University of Nairobi)Emmah Mwangi (Kenya Meteorological Department)Helen Ticehurst (UK Met Office)Awa Toure (Agence Nationale de l’Aviation Civile et de la Météorologie) and Tanya Warnaars (Centre for Ecology and Hydrology)

Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) faces increasing risks from climate variability and change. It is therefore essential to better integrate weather and climate science into societal-decision-making processes to support climate adaptation and build resilience to climate shocks. However, the weather and climate services (WCS) landscape in SSA remains poorly understood partly due to the lack of systematic assessments of users’ needs for WCS especially forecast timescales and lead times and barriers that impede the uptake and adoption of WCS in the region.

This paper uses a systematic literature review approach to answer questions related to forecast timescales and lead times most relevant to users of WCS in SSA and benefits that users derive from using WCS products. The paper also highlights the barriers impeding the successful delivery and uptake of WCS in SSA and provides strategies for overcoming them based on the reporting of successful practices. Overall, our article shows that there is need for greater capacity building of personnel working for national meteorological & hydrological services, in addition to agricultural extension staff and reinforcing and sustaining collaboration between different stakeholders (climate scientists, hydrologists, extension workers, farmers and other user groups) to improve the delivery, expansion and uptake of WCS in SSA.

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

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