Saturday, December 20, 2014

Rwanda fills climate data gap to protect against storms

Paula Park in Rwanda’s weather service is now better able to forecast floods and other natural disasters after scientists bridged climate-data gaps left by the 1994 genocide.  The collection of national rainfall and temperature records lapsed for after the genocide, and the absence of reliable records had hampered the Rwanda Meteorology Agency’s ability to forecast threats such as torrential rain or flooding that damaged homes and crops, and caused fatalities.

But researchers have now combined Rwandan weather station observations from before and after the 15 year gap with satellite data on rainfall patterns over the past 30 years. It has enabled the Rwanda Meteorology Agency to fill hole in its observations, says Marcellin Habimana, a climate processing officer at the agency.

Rwanda’s data gap is typical of many Sub-Saharan African countries. “Africa is very sparsely sampled,” Elfatih Eltahir, a civil engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States, tells SciDev.Net.

There are just 1,152 stations in Africa within the World Weather Watch programme that reports to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), so each covers 27,347 square kilometres, according to German NGO the Institute Water for Africa.  In comparison, it says, the 287 WMO weather stations in Germany each cover an area about 20 times smaller than that....

Mt. Katsimbi in Rwanda, shot by Micah Zarnke, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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