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HyCRISTAL: Integrating Hydro-Climate Science into Policy Decisions for Climate-Resilient Infrastructure and Livelihoods in East Africa

Project timeline

Project Contact


Dr. Gabriela Lopez Gonzalez

Availability of water is fundamental for development in the East African region. However, this vital resource is already under stress from land degradation, pollution, and overfishing. Climate change adds to these problems, greatly increasing the vulnerability of the poorest people in the region. HyCRISTAL is developing a new understanding of climate change and its impacts in the region, working with decision-makers to manage water for a more climate-resilient future.

HyCRISTAL focuses on East Africa; a rapidly developing region where, close to the equator, there are two rainy seasons per year, but includes areas which have a single dominant rainy season. The socio-economic focus region is the area of the East African Community states (Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda), but the project addresses a wider region including Somalia and Ethiopia. HyCRISTAL is supported by the East African Community and is linked to the World Meterological Office GWEX programme project HyVic.

Driven by East African priorities, the overarching goal of HyCRISTAL is to develop a new understanding of East African climate variability and change, their impacts, and to work with regional decision makers to support effective long-term (5 to 40 year) decision making in the face of a changing climate. In particular, it is designed to understand, quantify and reduce the uncertainty in the regional climate projections; and in collaboration with a range of stakeholders, co-develop climate-change coping options that meet the region’s societal needs in both urban and rural areas through a series of pilot demonstration projects, covering urban WASH, rural livelihoods, water management, tea production, transport and lake levels (see “Pilot Studies’). HyCRISTAL’s overarching goal will be achieved through the following specific objectives:

  1. Quantify the projections of decision-relevant quantities from state-of-the-art climate models, and their uncertainties due to model formulation and due to unknown aerosol-emission and land-use scenarios
  2. Determine the processes most relevant to 5-40 year East African predictions, including the effects of convection-dynamics coupling missing in all Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP) models, and evaluate their role in models, to quantify the trustworthiness of their projections
  3. Generate cross-level interactions to foster engagement of key stakeholders/decision-makers throughout the research process, to enable appropriate use of water, sanitation and livelihoods planning tools
  4. Improve critical knowledge of water availability as well as current and future risks from high-impact hydrological events based on the new understanding of future climate.
  5. Translate scientific understanding into appropriate water management and livelihood planning tools to enable decision-makers to assess the risk to infrastructure and livelihoods from climate change and to support the development of adaptation strategies.
  6. Evaluate new tools and integrated governance mechanisms in pilots, developing livelihood benefits within targeted urban and rural communities.
  7. Deliver a comprehensive dissemination and knowledge-sharing campaign to share evidence and tools with local decision-makers through to national and regional policy-makers.

HyCRISTAL will improve our understanding of key climate-water processes in the East Africa region in partnership with a wide range of stakeholders to apply this knowledge in two different settings: rural communities that rely on agriculture and fishing; and urban populations where water supply and sanitation are under pressure. Sub-projects address tea production (CI4Tea and HyTea), with the linked HyTpp project addressing Lake Victoria levels for the transport sector.

By developing climate science and helping water users assess their vulnerabilities; the HyCRISTAL project will increase the resilience of communities in East Africa. This will include the production of new, accessible, understandable and easy to- use tools for water resource management in a changing climate. The methods and tools developed will then be applied to decision-making processes.

Working with policymakers, inter-disciplinary research (hydrology, economics, engineering, social science, ecology and decision-making) is quantifying risks and providing the necessary tools to use climate change information for decision making on a 5-40 year timescale.

This is demonstrated in pilots studies, with these addressing several “areas of need” from the African Ministerial Council on Environment’s Comprehensive Framework of African Climate Change Programmes:

Beyond these specific locations and pilots, the HyCRISTAL project seeks to increase awareness and use of relevant climate information in policy across East Africa and anticipates that its research will be applicable to many other climate-sensitive decisions across a variety of sectors.

Climate projections show a warming trend in East Africa in the decades ahead, but changes in rainfall are more uncertain. Changes in weather extremes are expected, although the likely magnitudes of these are currently unclear. HyCRISTAL aims to tackle current uncertainties that exist around climate change projections for the region, concentrating in particular on what they mean for the availability and management of water. HyCRISTAL is working with the region’s decision-makers to integrate this information into current long-term planning and decision-making.

HyCRISTAL works with users to deliver world-leading climate research quantifying uncertainty from natural variability, uncertainty from climate forcings including those previously unassessed, and uncertainty in response to these forcings; including uncertainties from key processes such as convection and land-atmosphere coupling that are misrepresented in global models. Research is delivering a new understanding of the mechanisms that drive the uncertainty in projections. HyCRISTAL will use this information to understand trends and provide a process-based expert judgement on projections.

The work involves improving the understanding of key climate-water processes in the region, and working in partnership with climate-impacts scientists, practitioners and a wide range of stakeholders to apply this knowledge to decision making.

Download Scientific understanding of East African climate change from the HyCRISTAL project ,  which summarise key findings from HyCRISTAL so far on climate change, as well as key findings from the pan-African FCFA project “IMPALA” relevant to East Africa, both in the context of previous literature on the topic.

Mr Javiane Agenonga

He is a lecturer at Gulu University Hoima Campus (Uganda) in the department of Agriculture and Environment and holds the position of a course coordinator. He has an MSc in Environment and Development from the University of Reading (UK) and a BA in Environmental

Kara Smith

Role: Early Career Researcher Kara is a post-doctoral researcher in the Climate Modelling Laboratory at North Carolina State University. She is working within the HyCRISTAL Transport Pilot Project (HyTPP) as part of a group providing an analysis of historical and potential future Lake Victoria

Gabriela Lopez Gonzalez

Role: Project Manager Gabriela is HyCRISTAL Project Manager and water@leeds Coordinator. She facilitates the development of multidisciplinary partnerships involving academics and government agencies, NGOs and SME’s to find solutions for water-related issues. She has an MSc. in Rural Development and Natural Resources from ECOSUR

Benson Mbani

Role: Early Career Researcher Benson Mbani is currently a tutorial fellow at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) having recently completed an MSc. in Geospatial Information Science and Remote Sensing (MSc. GIS and R/S). He also holds a first degree in Geomatic

Dr. Mercy Wanjiru Mwaniki

Role: Early Career Researcher Dr. Mercy Mwaniki is a lecturer at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Nairobi, Kenya. Her expertise are in GIS, Environmental Remote Sensing applied to disaster (e.g. landslides), survey and mapping and Environmental Impact Assessment. She has an

Neha Mittal

Role: Early Career Researcher Neha Mittal is a Research Fellow at the School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, UK. She is working with Andrew Dougill and John Marsham on HyCRISTAL and UMFULA joint project ‘Climate Information for Resilient Tea Production (CI4Tea)’ focusing

Alfred Kondowe

Role: Early Career Researcher Alfred Kondowe is a meteorologist currently working at Tanzania Meteorological Agency Numerical Weather Prediction Section. He graduated holding a Ph.D. from Russian State Hydrometeorological University in 2012. His research focused on the improvement of the WRF-ARW model forecast of meteorological variables

Caroline Dunning

Role: Researcher Caroline is a Ph.D. student at the University of Reading, working with Dr. Emily Black and Professor Richard Allan. Her Ph.D. work looks at the seasonality of precipitation over Africa, including the representation of the seasonal cycle of precipitation in CMIP5 models,

Doreen Mwara

Role: Researcher Doreen Mwara is an upcoming scientist in Numerical Weather Prediction who obtained her BSc. in Meteorology at the University of Nairobi in 2014. She currently works as a Meteorologist at the Tanzania Meteorological Agency where she deals with downscaling global models to

Chuki Sangalugembe

Role: Early Career Researcher Chuki Sangalubembe is a principal meteorologist currently working at Tanzania Meteorological Agency in Numerical Weather Prediction Section. He graduated with an MSc. degree in mathematical modeling in 2012 at the University of Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. His research focused on

Xia Sun

Role: Early Career Researcher Xia is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the North Carolina State University. She obtained her MSc. degree from the same university, focusing on the precipitation process over Lake Victoria Basin using a

Claire Scannell

Role: Early Career Researcher Claire is a senior applied climate scientist at the Met Office. Her work focuses on the generation and communication of information on climate variability and change to inform decision making on climate resilience and capacity building in developing countries. Key

Matthew Ascott

Role: Early Career Researcher Matthew Ascott is a hydrogeologist at the British Geological Survey.  Matthew studies the impacts of environmental change of water resources and macronutrient cycles in groundwater-surface water systems.  His current research focuses on quantifying the impacts of climate change on public

John Marsham

Role: Principal Investigator Dr. John Marsham is a Water@Leeds research fellow within NCAS-Weather. He leads a group studying atmospheric convection, tropical meteorology, and Saharan dust uplift. He focuses on taking process studies through to implications for and improvements in weather and climate models. In 2009 he was awarded the Royal

Richard Anyah

Role: Co-Principal Investigator Richard is currently Associate Professor within the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment at the University of Connecticut. Richard’s research include but are not limited to regional climate dynamics, coupled regional climate-hydrologic modelling, regional climate change impacts and vulnerability assessments

Andrew Ainslie

Role: Co-Principal Investigator Andrew is a lecturer in International Rural Development at the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development, University of Reading. His research interests include system-wide drivers of agrarian change and ecosystem resilience; governance, including the role of ‘traditional’ institutions in managing land,

Emily Black

Role: Co-Principal Investigator Emily is a core member of NCAS-Climate staff within the land-surface group. Emily’s work focuses on variability and change in the hydrological cycle, and the way that people perceive and experience the associated hazards. She has strong interests in African rainfall,

Ben Booth

Role: Co-Principal Investigator Ben is a climate scientist at the UK’s Met Office. A big part of his work involves trying to quantify the plausible spread of future changes that are consistent with the current knowledge of climate processes.

Rosalind Cornforth

Role: Co-Principal Investigator Rosalind’s research interests include: African weather, Africa and climate change, climate modelling, knowledge exchange and methods, governance and decision-making expertise, facilitating entrepreneurial ground-based activities to broker dialogue communication between climate scientists, humanitarian and development practitioners and policy makers in Africa. Rosalind holds

Dai Clegg

Role: Researcher Dai is a specialist in big data, database and data modelling. He has 30-plus years experience in the computer industry, in public and private sector companies, consulting, teaching and developing software products, and as part of management teams shaping the direction of

Andrew Clenaghan

Role: Co-Principal Investigator Andrew is Programme Coordinator at Practical Action. He has over 20 years experience establishing and managing international development interventions. Andrew provides technical and advisory support on strategic planning, systems approaches and organisational effectiveness to regional offices and national thematic programmes, with

Marie-Estelle Demory

Role: Researcher Marie-Estelle is a senior research scientist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS)-Climate at Reading University. Her research interests include high-resolution global climate modelling, Global energy and hydrological cycles as well as Land surface-atmosphere interactions.

Giovanna De Giusti

Role: Researcher Giovanna is a development economist lecturing in the School of Development and Strategic Studies in Maseno University, Kenya. She has research expertise in the fields of micro-entrepreneurship and work-related decisions, adoption of climate change mitigation (agroforestry) and adaptation strategies, individual decision-making processes

Barbara Evans

Role: Co-Principal Investigator Barbara holds the chair in Public Health Engineering in the School of Civil Engineering, University of Leeds. Barbara is also a Chartered Engineer (CEng). Her research activities centre around sanitation, hygiene and water services in the global south.  Professor Evans’ research includes

Jackson Efitre

Role: Co-Principal Investigator Dr. Jackson Efitre holds a Ph.D. in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, and Certificates in Water and Natural Resources Management and Geographic Information Systems. He is interested in examining the effect of human activities such as deforestation, over-exploitation, pollution, habitat degradation and

Jonathan Evans

Role: Early Career Researcher Jonathan is a specialist in instrument development, installation and application of water quality and micro-meteorological systems. He worked to develop the Mk4 Hydra, a low-power, integrated open-path carbon dioxide and water vapour eddy-correlation system. He was involved in the field

Declan Finney

Role: Early Career Researcher Declan is a post-doctoral researcher within the Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences (ICAS) at the University of Leeds. Within the HyCRISTAL project, he is investigating moist convective processes in East Africa using a convection-permitting model. This work should improve

Elizabeth Kendon

Role: Early Career Researcher Elizabeth is a climate scientist working at the Met Office on extreme rainfall processes and their evaluation in models across space and time scales. Her work links up Met Office expertise in forecasting extreme events on weather and climate change

Ann Kingiri

Role: Co-Principal Investigator Ann is a Senior Research Fellow at the African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS), a knowledge think tank based in Nairobi Kenya. She is also a visiting researcher at the Development Policy and Practice (DPP) unit, Open University, UK. Dr. Kingiri

Jesse Kisembe

Role: Early Career Researcher Jesse is a graduate of BSc. in Meteorology and an early career researcher in the Department of Geography, Geo-informatics and Climatic Sciences, Makerere University. He has undertaken research on evaluation of the performance of CORDEX models over Uganda. He is

Daniel Lapworth

Role: Co-Principal Investigator Daniel is a hydrogeochemist at the British Geological Survey. His research spans biogeochemical processes in floodplains, field sensors and isotope techniques for tracking pollution, microbiological contamination in drinking water sources, urban groundwater quality and use, water resources in Africa and Asia, water

Kamazima Lwiza

Role: Co-Principal Investigator Kamazima is an Associate Professor in Marine Physics at Stonybrook University. He studies ocean processes that affect transport (e.g. currents and tides) and density distribution (e.g. mixing and heat balance). His research interests are the structure and dynamics of the shelf-seas,

Ross Maidment

Role: Researcher Ross is a post-doctoral research scientist at the University of Reading. His main research interests include satellite rainfall estimation and improving the characterisation and understanding of African climate variability and change. He is a member of the TAMSAT Group who provide pan-African

Felix Mutua

Role: Early Career Researcher  Felix is a lecturer at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Nairobi, Kenya. His expertise in GIS and Remote Sensing, Database development, Climate Modelling, Climate Change, Survey and mapping and Environmental Impact Assessment. He has an MSc.  in Environmental

David Macdonald

Role: Co-Principal Investigator David is a hydrogeologist at the British Geological Survey. David’s research interests include groundwater flooding, groundwater policy and management, groundwater resource assessment and raising awareness of groundwater issues. David holds a BSc. in Geophysics from the University of Edinburgh as well

Rhoda Nakabugo

Role: Early Career Researcher Rhoda is a graduate of BSc. in Meteorology and an early career researcher in the Department of Geography, Geoinformatics and Climatic Sciences, Makerere University. She has undertaken research on climate-smart Agriculture in Nakasongola district in Uganda. She sees potential to expand

John Owuor

Role: Early Career Researcher John Owuor is a lecturer at the School of Development and Strategic Studies (SDSS), Maseno University. He has a background in Political Science and Geography at an undergraduate level and MSc. in Development Studies from the University of Nairobi. Currently, John

Celia Petty

Role: Co-Principal Investigator Celia is a co-founder of Evidence for Development and has worked extensively at an international policy level on the protection of children in situations of armed conflict, and on social protection and social policy issues affecting children. Celia studied history at

Dave Rowell

Role: Co-Principal Investigator Dave’s main areas of expertise are African climate variability and change, and the mechanisms and uncertainty of future regional climate change, using both General Circulation Model (GCM) and observational data. Other research interests have included European climate change, atmospheric decadal variability,

Fredrick Semazzi

Role: Co-Principal Investigator Frederick is a Professor of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences and of Mathematics at the North Carolina State University. He directs the Climate Modelling Laboratory at NC State; which develops innovative numerical methods for climate models and builds and applies regional

Geoffrey Sabiiti

Role: Researcher Geoffrey is an experienced climate scientist who recently submitted his Ph.D. Geoffrey’s research involves assessing the drivers of current climate variability and future climate change over Uganda and how the climate extremes associated with variability and change impact on banana production in Uganda.

Robert Wilby

Role: Co-Principal Investigator Robert is a Professor of Hydroclimatic Modelling in the Department of Geography at Loughborough University. His research is on managing freshwater environments under climate variability and change, including reconstruction of drought and flood indices to assess the severity of recent extreme

Ben Winterbourn

Role: Early Career Researcher Ben is an Instrument Engineer at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, UK. He constructs, installs and maintains data-logging and telemetry systems using a wide variety of sensors for hydrological and micrometeorological measurements. He is particularly interested in measuring gas

Grady Walker

Role: Early Career Researcher Grady is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Reading.  His research interests include visual methods of creative inquiry, participatory approaches, critical pedagogy and theory, and subjectivity in the Anthropocene.  He worked for many years as a documentary filmmaker

Celia Way

Role: Early Career Researcher Celia Way is a Research Fellow at the University of Leeds.  Working with Barbara Evans within the Institute of Public Health and Environmental Engineering, Celia is focusing on understanding the impacts of climate change on urban water, sanitation and hygiene

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