Research strengths secure global challenge funding – Improving forecasting techniques

Improving forecasting techniques

Developing greater weather forecasting precision, and creating more accurate longer-term forecasts could provide huge benefits to African businesses, small traders and society, strengthening their ability to respond to crises.

Weather-sensitive sectors including aviation, solar and hydro-power and agriculture could all grow as a result.

A four year programme to meet these aims has been developed by principal investigator Professor Alan Blyth (EPSRC CDT in Fluid Dynamics Supervisor) from the University’s Faculty of Environment and the National Centre for Atmospheric Science. Professor Doug Parker (EPSRC CDT in Fluid Dynamics co-Director) is its lead scientist.

Key facts

  • Challenge: Improving weather forecasting in Africa.
  • Project Name: GCRF African SWIFT – African Science for Weather Information and Forecasting Techniques.
  • Funding: GCRF: £7,814,568 from cross-council Research Councils UK administered fund.
  • Country focus: Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya.
  • Principal Investigator: Professor Alan Blyth, Faculty of Environment and National Centre for Atmospheric Science. Lead scientist: Professor Doug Parker, the University’s Met Office Professor of Meteorology.
  • Research areas: Tropical weather forecasting.
  • Key  collaborators: World Meteorological Organisation, The Met Office, NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, University of Reading, African Centre of Meteorological Applications for Development and the weather services of Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, ICPAC, and universities in Dakar, Kumasi, Akure and Nairobi.

“The developed world has seen a revolution in the skill and impact of weather forecasts over the past decades,” Professor Parker said.

“Delivering comparable benefits to people in Africa is a tough challenge which demands collaboration between mathematicians, scientists, forecasters and social scientists.

“The GCRF support will enable academic and operational teams to work together across Africa to improve forecasting skill and bring the benefits to ordinary people.”

Charles Yorke, from the Ghana Meteorological Agency said vulnerable West African communities depended on natural resources for their livelihoods and reliable weather forecasts will make a critical difference to their ability to cope with unexpected climate variability.

Knowledge exchange

The programme is intended to develop the skills and knowledge of both African and UK-based climate and forecasting researchers, providing long-term expertise and knowledge exchange in the field.

Creating new international research capability in computer-based forecasts of tropical high-impact weather and building tools to deliver accurate forecasts will be integral to its success.

Summer schools in Africa, training events, plus secondments and academic exchanges to share knowledge and to integrate research based teaching into the curriculum of African universities is part of the programme.

Professor Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive designate of UK Research and Innovation, has spoken in support of the fund, and the research to be carried out. He said: “In the same way that facing global challenges requires a multi-national response, finding the solutions to them requires researchers from many disciplines to work together.

“The Global Challenges Research Fund makes that possible, and means that the UK’s world-leading researchers are able to get on with the job of working with each other and partners across the globe to make the world and society more sustainable.”

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