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Nana Ama Browne Klutse: Ghanaian scientist studies dynamics of west African monsoon

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FCFA is training African scientists in new skills and methodologies to study the African climate. Nana Ama Browne Klutse participated in a week-long training workshop on climate modelling at the University of Leeds, organised by the AMMA-2050 project in December 2016.

Nana Ama Browne Klutse is at the centre of Ghana’s efforts to understand the changing dynamics of the west African monsoon and how the country can steel itself for shifts in temperature and rainfall. Dr Klutse is the Manager of the Government of Ghana’s Remote Sensing and Climate Centre, with responsibility for running a national lab and training dozens of colleagues and students on the most effective methods to model and predict the west African climate.

Last week, Dr Klutse travelled to top up her own skills as part of the Future Climate for Africa programme’s training – hosted by the African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analysis (AMMA-2050) project at the University of Leeds.

Dr Klutse explained that her motivation to study the west African climate has developed during an early research career in physics and environmental sciences: “I got my first degree in physics at the University of Cape Coast, and then a PhD in climatology at the University of Cape Town, then I returned to Ghana as a research scientist,” she related.

“The issue of climate is a real concern to all and for those of us who are involved in the sciences, we know what is really happening – it’s alarming and it’s a call for concern for all. We really need to do something about it.

I’m interested in seeing if people can play their role in stopping the way the change is happening – if we can slow down global warming, it will be good for all of us.”

Ghana: already on the frontlines of climate change

Ghana has already experienced, acutely, some of the impacts of climate change, said Dr Klutse: “We have rivers drying up, late onset and early cessation of the monsoon so we seem to have a short rainy period compared to the past.”

While the length of the rains has shortened, she added, there is “not much change in the amount of rain,” meaning that rainfall has become more intense. This is creating flooding problems in the country and a host of impacts on agriculture: while flooding itself is a problem for farmers, the much longer dry season is also of concern.

Other climate trends in Ghana are similar to those “experienced by every other country”, Dr Klutse adds. “In my research with my students, we found the number of cold nights is reducing and the number of warm nights are increasing. The temperatures are getting higher.”

Society’s mismanagement of the environment has made some climate-related problems even worse: disturbance of soils by extractive industries like mining produces more dust; and forest depletion through unfettered logging is contributing to climate change – a problem in urgent need of mitigation.

Adapting to impacts of climate change will also improve if environmental management improves: “In the cities, we will get a lot of rainfall in a short time and so the water is not able to seep through the soils or get enough time to run off [through the sewerage system] to the waterways. People are building indiscriminately on waterways and we don’t have big enough drainage systems.”

New tools will have wide use in Ghana

During her time in Leeds, Dr Klutse learned the computer language Python, which can be applied in a versatile way to many climate modelling platforms. “Python is more universal and flexible than the other languages we were using and has a wider user network,” she said. “For almost every question, you find an answer on the internet. I am happy to use it and apply it, I hope it will help us speed up a bit. We had hit some challenges with generating indices for the climate.” She will apply her new knowledge to generating metrics for the AMMA 2050 project.

“In AMMA 2050 we are looking at the southern part of west Africa, the Guinea coast – there are a lot of meteorological processes happening. We are trying to understand how the extremes are changing as the monsoon is changing. We are looking at extreme temperature, rainfall and relative humidity. Python will help us do the statistics and to better analyse the data we already have. We hope to have a breakthrough when I get home with this.”

 

See the other profiles of FCFA-funded early career researchers.

Image: Nana Ama Browne Klutse, courtesy Mairi Dupar, FCFA.