Missing in action: African climate data
Science magazine Nature says it has learned of a British proposal to fill a gap in global climate change data, caused by the disuse of African weather stations. The plan will be discussed at the G8 meeting in Scotland next month.
Africa has a network of dilapidated weather stations, which could — but do not — provide valuable data on the continent's climate. The data is important to local health planners, who need it to fight malaria, and to climate researchers around the world, who need it to refine their models.
Yet many of the stations are now silent. Some say this is due to financial pressures, others say the African stations do not make their data available because foreign companies could use it to offer commercial forecasting services in competition with national agencies. Nature says there are also claims that some countries withhold their data to sell it to Western research organisations.
African meteorological services contacted by Nature denied that data is being withheld because of political or financial pressures.
Meteorologists say the problem could be solved if rich countries invested US$70 million over five years. But African governments will also need to fund the stations if they are to survive in the long-term.