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.


SWIFT Stakeholder Workshop on Climate and Weather Information Services takes place in Nigeria

This week African SWIFT holds its Stakeholder Workshop in Abuja, Nigeria. The central theme of the workshop is, “how to support users’ understanding of weather forecast and services in Nigeria”. The 2-day workshop (26-27 March) is hosted by SWIFT partners, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency, National Weather and Climate Research Centre (NiMet), and organised in collaboration with the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA). The workshop provides an excellent opportunity for both forecast users from numerous economic sectors across Nigeria, and SWIFT operational forecasters and researchers to meet and discuss weather information services and to strengthen partnerships.

The workshop will identify which weather events have the greatest impact on decision-making within each sector; assess how forecast information and its delivery might be improved; and identify communication pathways and early warning systems currently in operation between users and forecasters, and agree how best practice can be identified and shared. Stakeholders from key sectors including Disaster Risk Reduction, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water, Construction and Health are taking part in the discussions. Important questions being addressed by stakeholders include, how well is current forecasting information understood and trusted within their sector; is the level of forecast uncertainty associated with a particular forecasting tool clear to users; and where and how improvements can be made. The workshop is paying particular attention to impact-based weather forecasting and warnings, with the aim to identify areas where an increased forecasting capacity, and the availability of additional/better forecasting tools could assist decision-making processes within the different sectors. The workshop will also identify which methodologies and tools are proving effective in integrating climate information services across time scales and sectors, to ensure the most timely, accurate and comprehensive forecasting information is made available to all.

Links to further news:

SWIFT Stakeholder Workshop in Dakar, Senegal

Dakar Stakeholders (Photo Elias Nkiaka)

Following the Ghana workshop in November 2018, this week sees the second African SWIFT Stakeholder Workshop taking place in Dakar, Senegal. The two-day workshop is hosted by SWIFT partners, Agence Nationale de l’Aviation Civile et de la Météorologie (ANACIM) and is organised by ANACIM and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH). As part of African SWIFT Work Package 1, ‘User engagement’, these two SWIFT partners are currently working to improve weather forecasting and warning systems, to help meet the needs of emergency responders and important sectors in Senegal such as agriculture and fisheries. The SWIFT project is keen to engage key stakeholders early in the programme to ensure that stakeholder experience and needs can be used to inform the design of new forecasting techniques, products and services.

Senegal Floods (Photo ANACIM)

Severe weather in the Sahel, such as the 2009 and 2012 floods in Dakar, is often due to intense rain from convective storms, and the recent increase in the number of severe weather events appears to be linked to global warming. This climate change signal indicates that the socio-economic impacts on sectors like agriculture and fisheries are likely to become even more devastating in the coming years. The central aim of the Dakar workshop is to ensure that such weather forecast users can take appropriate action in response to weather warnings issued by national meteorological services. The SWIFT workshop is attended by the Director and forecasters from national meteorological services, high level and technical representatives from key sectors within Senegal, including disaster management, agriculture and fisheries, as well as stakeholders from other climate services initiatives in Senegal including WMO Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS), and Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery Senegal (GFDRR).

Anticipated outcomes from the workshop include:

  • A better understanding of the impacts of weather by forecasters in national meteorological services, leading to refinement of weather warnings and services.
  • An improved understanding of the uncertainties and issues involved in issuing weather services (i.e. warnings) by users of the forecasts.
  • Enhanced engagement (during the forecasting of an event) between the users and producers of weather services.

Link to further coverage on the ANACIM website

The Dakar workshop is second in a series of four SWIFT Stakeholder Workshops taking place across tropical Africa. In the coming weeks we will report on further events due to take place in Nigeria and Kenya.

Organisations involved in the African SWIFT Stakeholder Workshop in Dakar, Senegal include:

  • ADM Agence de Développement Municipale
  • ANACIM Agence Nationale de l’Aviation Civile et de la Météorologie
  • ARD Agence Régionale de Développement
  • CEH Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
  • CSE Centre de Suivie Ecologique
  • DEEC Direction de l’Environnement  et des Etablissements classes
  • DGPI Direction de la Prévention et de la Gestion des Inondations
  • DGPRE Direction Générale de la Planification et des Ressources en Eau
  • MRUHCV Ministère du Renouveau Urbain, de l’Habitat et du Cadre de Vie
  • MWG Multi-disciplinary Working Group
  • CLPA leaders of the local artisanal fishers’ council

First African SWIFT Forecasting Testbed and SWIFT – HyVic Flight Campaign

African SWIFT aims to develop the physical understanding of weather systems over Africa and to actively contribute to improving the forecasting of high impact weather events such as urban flooding or prolonged droughts.

African SWIFT Testbed 1a: 24-29 January 2019

This week sees SWIFT partners, Kenyan Meteorological Department (KMD), host the first African SWIFT forecasting testbed. The testbed brings together teams of SWIFT researchers and operational forecasters from East and West Africa and the UK, and will provide excellent insight into the issues faced in producing and delivering forecasts in Africa. The testbed will highlight areas for improvement and crucially will develop closer co-operation between forecasters and researchers. This will result in better delivery of accurate, timely forecasts and forecast products to user groups, such as emergency response agencies and the agricultural and fisheries sectors. The central purpose of the forecasting testbed is to create a working relationship for developmental testing of forecasting systems for Africa. The testbed is carried out in an operational setting that enables forecasters, researchers and forecast users to work together. This week the testbed teams are carrying out real-time testing of both current forecasting techniques, as well as new proposed methods, with some of the testing representing a world first, notably the using of high-resolution, convection-permitting forecasts for Africa. The SWIFT testbeds will improve the understanding of global and regional models by comparing models with different specifications, and so improving forecasters’ interpretation. The teams will also generate new ideas for the visualisation of forecast information, leading to improvements in forecast delivery and accuracy. Through these new interactions between forecasters and researchers SWIFT is advancing the meteorological science and improving the delivery of useful forecast information and products to users groups across West and East Africa. A second SWIFT testbed is scheduled to take place in April 2019.

More information on testbeds

HyVic Pilot Flight Campaign

During this week the SWIFT testbed will provide support to the HyVic pilot flight campaign over Lake Victoria. The flight campaign has been organised by SWIFT and the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS) working with the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) High impact weather lake system (HIGHWAY) project and the Ugandan National Meteorological Authority. The ultimate aim of the flight campaign is to deliver improved forecasting capability for the Lake Victoria region, specifically for users engaged in fishing and transport on the lake, as well as major urban centres in the lake basin vulnerable to flooding. This working partnership between SWIFT and HIGHWAY will enable the SWIFT testbed team to use real-time observations from the flight campaign, and to analyse the value of these observations to the operational forecasting process. In turn the testbed teams will provide forecasts to be used by the flight team in their planning. The flight team will measure the lake/land breeze circulation over Lake Victoria, a key driver of the severe, life-threatening storms that take place over the lake. This is the first time that circulation patterns have been measured in detail over Lake Victoria, and will lead to significant advancements in our scientific understanding of how thunderstorms develop in the region, thereby improving forecasting capability. 




African SWIFT collaborate with WMO-Severe Weather Forecasting Demonstration Project

From 20-30 November 2018, in Lomé, Togo, African SWIFT are collaborating with the first World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Severe Weather Forecasting Demonstration Project for West Africa (SWFDP-West Africa) training workshop on severe weather forecasting and delivery of warning services.

The training programme has been developed jointly by WMO and African SWIFT in consultation with contributing partners. Experts from global and regional centres (e.g. ECCC, Météo-France, NOAA/NCEP, RSMC – ANACIM, Dakar, ACMAD, AGRHYMET Centre), as well as from SWIFT partners at the University of Leeds, the Federal University of Technology Akure, (FUTA), ACMAD and Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) will contribute to the workshop as lecturers. Participants from SWIFT Kenya partners (University of Nairobi and KMD) will share their practical experience of the successful SWFDP project in Eastern Africa.

Week 1 of the workshop is focused on forecasting techniques, interpretation of Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP) products and satellite based information, and its best use in severe weather forecasting. Week 2 looks at public weather services e.g. determination of service delivery gaps, dissemination channels, impact-based forecast and warning services, introduction to the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) standard for dissemination of warnings, and working with the media and with Disaster Management and Civil Protection Authorities.

Operational forecasters and public weather services (PWS) staff from 15 National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) across the sub-region are attending, including from Cabo Verde, Guineas-Bissau, Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo. SWIFT participants attending include forecasters, academics, researchers and lecturers from the SWIFT African partner countries (Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya). The workshop brings together SWIFT forecasters and researchers to learn and develop standard forecasting techniques that will be further developed in the SWIFT testbeds in 2019.

From SWFDP, SWIFT and PWS perspective, the main aims of the workshop are:

  • To introduce participants to the available NWP and Guidance products through SWFDP-West Africa and to develop capacity on their interpretation and best use in forecasting; to prepare participants for the demonstration phase of SWFDP-West Africa in early 2019.
  • To introduce forecasters to the latest techniques for West African synoptic forecasting and nowcasting and to introduce researchers to the challenges and methods of operational forecasting; to apply these techniques to new case-studies, which will encourage forecaster-researcher dialogue and to develop training tools for future training.
  • To engage the forecasters and PWS staff with users (e.g. from DMCPAs, media, agriculture) to improve delivery of warnings and services and to improve dissemination of warning through various channels of communication including websites and social media.
  • To introduce impact based forecasting and warning (IBFW) services.

The workshop is convened at the kind invitation of the Government of Togo and has received funding support from the Climate Risk and Early Warnings Systems (CREWS) Initiative.

National stakeholder dialogue takes place in Accra, Ghana

This week the SWIFT Users team is meeting in Accra for a dialogue with stakeholders. Hosted by the Ghana Meteorological Agency (GMet) and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), the discussion will focus on how best to support users’ understanding and use of weather /climate forecast and services in Ghana.

The meeting takes place 8-9 November and is led by Philip Antwi-Agyei (KNUST), Andrea Taylor (University of Leeds) and Maureen Ahiataku (GMet), together with SWIFT Programme Science Director, Elijah Adefisan (ACMAD) and Nicolas Fournier (UK Met Office). Stakeholders taking part include, representatives from government ministries and departments, delegates from operational forecasting agencies and industrial sectors such as oil an gas, national and international NGOs and academic research groups.

This is the first of four African SWIFT national dialogues with stakeholder groups, with similar events planned in Senegal, Nigeria and Kenya. The key aims of the Users work package are to:

  • Examine the usefulness of existing forecast provision for decision making in climate sensitive sectors across nowcasting to seasonal timescales.
  • Bring users and providers of forecasts together to identify how the usefulness and accessibility of forecasts products can be increased.
  • Develop effective strategies for communicating forecasts to different users in climate sensitive sectors.

As stakeholders discuss their experiences of weather/climate impact within their sector (agriculture, fisheries, oil and gas, water resources, disaster management etc.), they are identifying what information they need from weather forecasts, and what support is required to enable them to use the information in making strategic decisions.  A representative from the oil and gas sector has highlighted the challenges within Ghana to accessing marine-based weather data. A key question for all is, what forecast information is required, and by whom, to mitigate against the negative impacts of severe weather events.

For further information contact Philip Antwi-Agyei or Andrea Taylor via the links above.


Elijah Adefisan from FUTA is appointed as African SWIFT Programme Science Director

Elijah Adesanya Adefisan has been appointed as the African SWIFT Programme Science Director with effect from October 2018. This is a strategically significant role for the SWIFT project with prime responsibility for the scientific coordination of the SWIFT science agenda between the ten African partners. Elijah is based at the African Center of Meteorological Applications for Development (ACMAD) in Niamey, Niger.  After successfully completing his first degree in meteorology in 1998, Elijah was awarded a Masters in Technology from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria (FUTA). He was awarded his PhD in 2014 following a programme of research split between University of Cape Town and FUTA. For his PhD, Elijah  used the WRF model to research the numerical simulation of meso-scale convective systems (MCS); this led him to develop an algorithm for tracking MCS from the initiation to the decay stage. He was appointed as a Senior Lecturer at FUTA in 2015 and currently teaches both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes as well as supervising a number of PhD students. Elijah has also undergone forecasting training with the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) and during his time with African SWIFT plans to continue his important work to link the latest advances in scientific research to operational weather forecasting.

As Programme Science Director Elijah is responsible for the coordination and implementation of the SWIFT project and the establishment of the ACMAD Research and Development Department. Other important aspects of his role are, to lead on SWIFT activities in operational training and university programmes; and to oversee the synthesis of different weather and climate services to user needs and their dissemination to different user communities. He will also establish partnerships to define, generate and deliver meteorological products and develop capacity for the production, interpretation and use of meteorological information.

Whilst studying for his PhD, Elijah attended the first international summer school in Meteorology and Climate Science held at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi, Ghana in 2008, and run jointly with Leeds, Reading, GMet and the Met Office. He will return to KNUST for the 2019 summer school as the SWIFT Programme Science Director.

In a recent visit to the University of Leeds Elijah described his ambition, “to contribute to the development of ACMAD by advancing its role to create a dynamic research environment that brings together scientists from across the region, to incubate and grow new research ideas and to forge productive and lasting connections between researchers, operational forecasters and users.”

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