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Scientists meet to build capacity in African weather forecasting at African SWIFT Science Meeting and Summer School in Ghana

SWIFT and HyCRISTAL researcher, Caroline Wainwright recently attended the African SWIFT Summer School and Science Meeting in Ghana. Caroline and Vicky Boult, a fellow researcher at University of Reading and student on the Summer School, share insights on their experience below.

The attendees of the SWIFT Summer School 2019.

 

In late July 2019, the African SWIFT programme (Science for Weather Information and Forecasting Techniques), funded by the GCRF (Global Challenges Research Fund), ran a major International Summer School in parallel with a cross-project Science Meeting. GCRF African SWIFT is a major programme of research and capacity building aiming to improve African weather forecasting skill.

The Summer School and Science Meeting schedules included a vast array of scientists, from master’s and PhD students, to leading scientists in the field of African meteorology, and a number of operational meteorologists from national meteorological services across Africa. This unique festival of African meteorology was held at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), in Kumasi, Ghana, who acted as excellent hosts for the two-week event. The Summer School was organised in collaboration with the Young Earth System Scientists community (YESS).

Stocktake of progress and future activities discussed amongst researchers at the Science Meeting

Those attending the Science Meeting had a full week of meetings, discussing the work that has been completed thus far, including four user engagement workshops and the first testbed events (held in January and April 2019). The testbed events brought together operational meteorologists, end users of weather forecasts and researchers in a quasi-operational environment to produce forecasts, with the aim to integrate research and operational practice in the area of synoptic weather forecasting, nowcasting and forecast evaluation for tropical Africa. The Science Meeting was a great opportunity to review the numerous accomplishments of the programme, and plan future directions, especially planning for outcomes involving multiple institutes and cross work package activities. The second week involved a large range of training sessions on: forecast evaluation, nowcasting, satellite products, and planning sessions for case study analysis and development of an East African Forecasters’ Handbook, with Science Meeting attendees jumping between the role of trainee and trainer for different sessions.

The participants of the Summer School were provided with an opportunity to present posters of their research.

 

Theory and practical sessions on African meteorology were delivered at the Summer School

On top of the Science Meeting, attendees were also involved in delivering lectures and running practical sessions for the Summer School students; involving some careful time management to ensure you didn’t need to be in two places at the same time! Running Summer School sessions enabled SWIFT scientists to engage with the participants, and think about how to construct practicals that really challenged students and taught them about tropical meteorology theory and forecasting techniques. It was also a great opportunity to hear students’ thoughts and opinions on some of the SWIFT science.

Summer School students spent a busy two weeks in theory and practical sessions delivered by leading experts in African meteorology. Content ranged from the drivers of tropical African meteorology, to developing and evaluating forecasts and co-production of forecasting products. Each morning, students put their learning into practice by producing and presenting the day’s forecast for West and East Africa. By watching the skies over the subsequent 24 hours, students were quickly able to tell if their forecast skills were up-to-scratch or not! In addition, a careers session gave students the opportunity to grill top academics about their pathways to success, and a poster presentation session allowed students to share their own work and receive valuable feedback from colleagues. There was also ample opportunity for networking amongst the Summer School students, who represented a diverse mix of European and African institutions, and research and operational roles. We expect these connections will form the basis of productive future collaborations.

In the middle of the Summer School, both students and Science Meeting attendees came together to participate in a discussion forum with weather forecast user groups from across Kumasi and the Ashanti Region of Ghana. The conversations explored ways that forecast information might be improved and linked more closely to the needs of climate sensitive sectors such as agriculture, disaster management and urban planning.

The SWIFT Science Meeting and Summer School was a great opportunity, for scientists from across Africa and Europe, to meet and engage, to enhance knowledge and understanding, and to progress the plans for the next stage of the SWIFT project. It was an excellent two weeks, and we would like to thank Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) for being excellent hosts, and all those involved in the planning and organisation.

 

 

This article was written by Caroline Wainwright and Vicky Boult.

Vicky Boult is a researcher in the TAMSAT (Tropical Applications of Meteorology using SATellite data and ground-based observations) group at the University of Reading. Vicky is working on projects to integrate TAMSAT’s rainfall data into agricultural and humanitarian decision-support strategies.

Caroline Wainwright is a researcher part of the SWIFT project and the FCFA HyCRISTAL research consortium. HyCRISTAL stands for Integrating Hydro Climate Science into Policy Decisions for Climate Resilient Infrastructure and Livelihoods in East Africa. HyCRISTAL aims to develop a new understanding of climate change in East Africa and to work with the region’s decision-makers to manage water for a more climate-resilient future. Within the SWIFT project, Caroline works on the sub-seasonal to seasonal work package.