Africa’s weather stations need ‘major effort’

Wind erosion observation system in Banizoumbou, Niger Copyright: Jean-Louis Rajot, IRD

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[NAIROBI] Africa’s weather monitoring system is deteriorating and needs major improvements to meet the challenges of climate change, according to the secretary general of the World Meteorological Organisation, Michel Jarraud.

"Overall it is estimated that Africa needs 200 automatic weather stations, a major effort to rescue historical data and improved training and capacity building on climate and weather reporting," he said.

Jarraud made his comments at a press conference held ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference that opened in Nairobi, Kenya yesterday (6 November).

He added that Africa needs to adapt to climate change by making better links between climate research and policymaking.

His warnings are based on a report released in September that underlines Africa’s vulnerability to climate change using data from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

Its findings are likely to be a key focus of the Nairobi meeting.

Africa will be the continent most affected by climate change yet it is the least ready to respond to it, says the report.

Despite covering a fifth of the world’s total land area, Africa has the worse climate observation system of all continents, and one that is in a deteriorating state.

About one in four weather stations in east and southern Africa that are part of the international data-sharing network called the Global Climate Observing System are not working, and most of the remaining stations are not functioning properly.

Meanwhile, the density of the continent’s weather stations is of one per 26,000 square kilometres, eight times lower than the WMO’s minimum recommended level.

UNEP’s executive director Achim Steiner urged the international community to assist developing countries — particularly those in Africa — to adapt to the impacts of global warming.

The world should offer well-targeted assistance to those countries "facing increasing impacts such as extreme droughts and floods and threats to infrastructure from phenomena like rising sea levels," he said.