The number of weather stations in Africa has halved over the last 30 years, according to The World Meteorological Office which estimates that there are now just over 1,100 active weather stations in the whole of Africa – a continent of 54 countries, many with starkly different climates. 20% of these stations are in South Africa.
Dr Joseph Mukabana, in his recent report for the African Ministerial Conference on Meteorology, says this “poor and sparse” network needs to be expanded to at least 12,000 to provide basic weather services and help manage climate change.
This neglect has created “key gaps in our abilities to predict high-impact weather events”, he says.
This shortage of weather stations means that what meteorologists call “ground truthing” – verifying predictions made from satellite data with earth-based evidence – is very difficult.
This situation is exacerbated by the inability to translate this data into a forecast as weather stations themselves don’t give us a forecast directly, but they have to send the information they collect back to forecasters in Europe who provide better, more reliable advice on the ground.
A local in Tanzania says: “If the rains come too early at the end of the longer rainy season our beans rot. But it’s harder now to tell what will happen.”
In the Lushoto district of northern Tanzania, Peter, a runner bean grower, lost his entire crop at the start of the shorter spring rainy season.
“Timing is everything. If you plant the seeds too early and heavy rains come in the first days, the seeds and dry top soil will be washed off the hillside and into the river channels at the bottom of the fields,” he says.
One weather station has to cover an area of 27,000 sq km (10,425 sq miles) on average, meaning that what should be hard evidence is often just “best guess”.
Weather data is also useful for renewable energy firms wanting to know where to place their wind farms, and for insurance companies needing to assess flood risk and verify claims.
The US-based International Research Institute for Climate and Society believes that giving farmers access to reliable weather forecasts can help them increase yields by 20%, and sometimes by as much as 80%.
Ironically, in its desperation to promote global warming, NOAA has recently announced a record high temperature in a part of Africa where there is almost no weather station.
In fact one wonders where they get the data for their red areas in their charts – if there are no weather stations, surely those areas should be white? Designed for mass media consumption and brainwashing no doubt…