Africa’s Weather Forecasting Crisis Hampers Climate Preparedness

africa s weather forecasting crisis hampers climate preparedness.jpg Science

As the world grapples with the increasingly tangible realities of climate change, Africa stands out as a continent in a precarious position. Despite contributing the least to the global climate crisis, Africa is poised to bear the brunt of its devastating impacts. With over 1.3 billion people, the majority of whom are deprived of reliable weather forecasts, the continent finds itself in a high-risk position. The inability to predict weather patterns poses a dual challenge – it is both a fatal threat and a costly burden, with damages running into billions of dollars.

The inaugural Africa Climate Summit, set to commence on Monday in Kenya, aims to spotlight this pressing issue. The summit will focus on the urgent need for significant investment in Africa’s capacity to adapt to climate change, starting with an improvement in weather forecasting. At the core of every discussion, from energy to agriculture, is the glaring lack of data collection that influences decisions as critical as when to plant crops or when to evacuate. The African continent, larger than China, India, and the United States combined, currently operates with a mere 37 radar facilities for tracking weather, starkly contrasting with Europe’s 345 and North America’s 291.

Africa’s Climate Crisis: The Urgent Need for Better Weather Forecasting

A Continent in the Dark

Much of the globe takes daily weather forecasts for granted, but for most of Africa’s 1.3 billion inhabitants, such knowledge is a luxury. The lack of advance weather information can prove deadly and costly, with damages running into billions. As the first Africa Climate Summit convenes in Kenya, the spotlight is on the continent that is projected to be the most affected by climate change while contributing the least to it. At the core of all discussions, from energy to agriculture, is the glaring gap in data collection that influences crucial decisions such as when to plant crops or when to evacuate.

Sparse Data, Dire Consequences

The African continent, larger than China, India, and the United States combined, has a mere 37 radar facilities for tracking weather. In stark contrast, Europe boasts 345 radar facilities, and North America has 291. Asaf Tzachor, a researcher at the University of Cambridge, labels Africa as a "climate risk blind spot." He warns that by 2050, climate change could cost Africa more than $50 billion annually, a number that is expected to rise as the continent’s population doubles.

Inadequate Services, Deteriorating Networks

In comparison to the rest of the world, Africa has the most underdeveloped land-based observation network, a situation that is only getting worse. According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the number of observations by atmospheric devices usually used with weather balloons decreased by as much as 50% over Africa between 2015 and 2020. This lack of data affects key development choices and investments. Less than 20% of sub-Saharan African countries provide reliable weather services, the WMO reported.

Hope on the Horizon

However, the situation is not completely bleak. Thirteen of the most data-sparse African countries are receiving funds to improve weather data collection and sharing from a United Nations-created trust fund, the Systematic Observations Financing Facility. An older funding mechanism, Climate Risk & Early Warning Systems, has supported the modernization of meteorological systems in several West and Central African countries.

The Need for Action

The lack of weather data not only hampers efforts to link certain natural disasters to climate change but also impedes the development of effective early warning systems. This can result in devastating losses, as seen in Somalia and Mozambique, where thousands of lives have been lost to disasters such as tropical storms and flooding. The need for robust climate data and research is clear, and the call for investment in basic infrastructure like a network of rain gauges is growing louder.

In conclusion, the Africa Climate Summit presents a critical opportunity for the continent to address its weather forecasting crisis. The stakes are high, and the time for action is now. The future of the continent’s climate resilience and adaptation lies in the balance, and effective weather forecasting is key to unlocking this potential.

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