Weather forecasters in the greater horn of Africa region will now use a more advanced method of forecasting that allows meteorologists to tell the public what impact the forecasts and warnings will have on them on a daily basis.
Known as Impact-Based Forecasting (IBF), the method makes forecasting and the warning systems more relevant to the public by explaining what impacts are from the forecast issued, and what they mean to the users/public for effective decision making to save lives.
“For a long time we have been telling users what the weather would be like and sometimes it is difficult to make decisions with that kind of information, it is easier when we have information on what weather is telling you, but on top of that, the impact it is likely to cause,” says Samuel Muchemi of World Meteorological Organisation.
This means that stakeholders such as disaster managers, health care providers, emergency rescue team in weather sensitive sectors, will receive the forecasts and warnings through the most accessible medium for them for proper planning.
The weather forecasters from seven countries in the region including Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, S.Sudan, Kenya, Rwanda and Burindi – were trained in Nairobi, Kenya for two weeks in February – on how to generate forecasts that are impact-based. The training was organised by World Meteorological Organisation, with facilitating team from United Kingdom’s Met Office.
The training targeted the climate experts from the Lake Victoria basin and the surrounding regions through the High Impact Weather Lake Systems (HIGHWAY) project, which aims to deliver regular weather forecasts and severe weather warnings for fishing boats and small transport vessels on Lake Victoria.
According to Chris Tubbs, an international meteorologist at the UK’s Met Office who facilitated the training, Lake Victoria currently lacks effective early warning systems to protect those who depend on it with large number of fatalities
“The training has been more concentrated on the Lake Victoria area basin. This is because the Lake is seen as an area where large number of fatalities occurs, but we are not just concentrating the training on Lake Victoria, but expanding the training to other countries within the greater horn of Africa regions.
He adds that the HIGHWAY project aims at improving the forecasting across the Lake Victoria region so that some of the lives that are lost by the fishermen would be saved, enhancing better forecasting for the areas around the lake for farming and other activities around the lake.
The two week- long training also had a component on how the forecasters can improve their communication skills for effective engagement with the media.
“We have also focussed on how to develop life saving products, and how these products should be communicated in a way that they are best understood by the users through IBF and warning services,” says Muchemi.