Hindsight on African rainfall forecasts
In 1997, the first regional Climate Outlook Forum (COF) took place in Zimbabwe. Forums have since been created in East and West Africa, providing seasonal climate forecasts for each region.
The COF forecasts predict rainfall 3–6 months in advance. Initially, efforts to use forecasts were not promising, with inaccuracies leading to lack of trust.
However, several success stories emerged in later years, such as prior knowledge of the 2002 drought in Ethiopia enabling a more organised response.
In the 1990s, the WHO began testing the potential use of forecasts to help malaria prevention and control strategies. This cut death and disease rates in 2005 after being put into practice in 2004.
In this Science article, the authors describe three important conditions for creating useful forecasts.
First, information must be appropriate to specific users' needs. Second, forecasters and users need to collaborate in developing and interpreting predictions. Finally, forecasts must be communicated effectively so as to promote understanding.
Developing the capacity of these forecasts may prove vital for Africa to adapt to the effects of climate change.