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WISER-EWSA Project in Southern Africa


Written Kasia Nowakowska

Southern Africa typically experiences severe thunderstorms which cause significant damage and threaten hundreds of thousands of lives. Over the past two weeks I have been part of the international team from the United Kingdom, Zambia, South Africa and Mozambique working on a ‘testbed’ to improve the early warning systems for extreme weather.

The testbed is part of the Weather and Climate Information Services Early Warnings for Southern Africa (WISER-EWSA) project, focusing on using real-time observations for the  short-term prediction of weather up to 6 hours ahead (also known as nowcasting). Using this prediction, we provide weather information and warnings to local communities .

The forecasting testbed has been based at the Zambian Meteorological Department (ZMD) in Lusaka, Zambia. Here, I have had the chance to work alongside forecasters as they produced 2-hour nowcasts, which indicate the areas where the weather will cause severe impacts. We also worked to produce SMS messages with forecasts for our local community based in Kanyama, Lusaka. The discussions highlighted two key points. Firstly, how challenging forecasting is in this region. The experience of my ZMD colleagues was essential for understanding the drivers of observed convective storms and what was causing their initiation and growth. Secondly, how impactful even a small amount of rain could be in an area like Kanyama, which had already received rainfall in previous days. On Friday 2nd February, just an hour of rainfall in the afternoon caused moderate flooding in the community and really illustrated the importance of providing early warnings.

I am a PhD student on the CDT for Fluid Dynamics. My research focuses on how we can use a simplified model of the atmosphere along with machine learning techniques to understand the nowcasting of storms. Being a part of the testbed and nowcasting alongside experienced forecasters has helped me understand the long-term impacts of my own mathematical research.

For more information on the project please visit: