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

Project Timeline
1 Jun 15 - 31 Mar 21
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.

Read our news stories, below, for the latest information, or contact hycristal@leeds.ac.uk.


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