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IMPALA: Improving Model Processes for African Climate

Project timeline

Project Contact

Dr Richard Graham

Project Manager

The IMPALA project is tackling a major scientific hurdle that limits decision-makers from using climate information: current climate models have only a modest ability to capture African climate systems. Because of this, there is large uncertainty and low scientific confidence in important aspects of the projections for Africa’s climate in the next 5–40 years.

IMPALA feeds into the FCFA regional pilot projects through its pan-African scale work on improving knowledge and modelling of African climate. The project focuses on a single climate model, the Met Office Unified Model, to improve its simulation of African climate through a better understanding and representation of weather and climate processes. This will result in reduced uncertainty in future projections of the African climate and provide valuable information to climate scientists and modellers within Africa and worldwide, and empower decision-makers with information that can be used to reduce risks and help protect the livelihoods of the most vulnerable.

The initiative aims to deliver a step change in global climate model capability that will reduce uncertainty and enable better-informed evaluation of the robustness of future projections.

The IMPALA project has developed a very high-resolution pan-African climate model (grid-spacing of around 4km), the first of its kind, that better captures key processes and local-scale weather phenomena including extremes, and provides new understanding of the roles played by these processes in African climate variability and change. The model is called CP4-Africa. The improved knowledge and new simulations are being used by scientists in the four regional research projects (AMMA-2050, FRACTAL, HyCRISTAL and UMFULA) . This, in turn, will deliver more reliable information for decision-makers and scientists in a range of sectors including agriculture, urban and rural water resources, health and infrastructure management and renewable energy.

Giresse Kuete Gouandjo

Role: Early Career Researcher Giresse is a Ph.D. student at the University of Yaounde Cameroon. Understanding drivers of convection in Central Africa marks his current research activities. This research deals with better understanding of AEJ component dynamic, their links with regional mid-tropospheric circulation “highs, divergent

Thierry Taguela

Role: Early Career Researcher Thierry is a Ph.D. student at the  Laboratory of Environmental Modelling and Atmospheric Physics (University of Yaounde). His work is on the assessment of precipitation bias in UM over Central Africa. The work focuses on an assessment of the contribution of both

Lorenzo Tomassini

Role: Researcher Lorenzo works on the interaction between moist convection and the atmospheric circulation in the tropics. He is a member of the Global Model Evaluation and Development group at the UK Met Office. Prior to joining the Met Office he held a position

Cathryn Birch

Role: Researcher Dr. Cathryn Birch is a tenure-tracked Academic Research Fellow at the University of Leeds. Her main expertise is in process study within dynamical meteorology using high-resolution weather and climate models. Recent work has focused on monsoons, tropical convection and land-surface interaction in

Richard Graham

Role: Project Manager Richard leads the Monthly to Decadal Applications group, developing practical climate prediction products that can be readily used to inform planning and policy. This is done by distilling complex information from climate models and other sources into informative ‘user-friendly’ formats. Richard’s

Catherine Senior

Role: Principal Investigator Catherine leads a team of around 20 scientists, at the Met Office, working on understanding climate processes, feedbacks and uncertainty. Catherine joined the Met Office in 1986 after completing a degree in Mathematics at the University of Leeds. She has worked

Christopher Taylor

Role: Principal Investigator The principal lead of AMMA-2050, Chris is interested in how the properties of the land surface: soil moisture and vegetation cover, influence weather and climate. His work has been motivated by the need to understand the climate of semi-arid regions in

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

Babatunde Abiodun

Role: Researcher Babatunde is a lecturer at the University of Cape Town. His research interest is in development, evaluation, and application of dynamic atmospheric models focusing on a model that has capability for horizontal grid adaptation (called CAM-EULAG). He evaluates atmospheric models and uses them

Matthew Collins

Role: Co-Principal Investigator Matthew’s research interests lie within the areas of climate modelling, climate variability and change, quantifying uncertainty in climate projections, dynamics of the El Nino Southern Oscillation and the dynamics of the Indian monsoon as well as with the quantification of uncertainty

Piers Forster

Role: Climate Lead Piers is the Professor of Physical Climate Change; Royal Society Wolfson Merit Award holder; Director of the Priestley International Centre for Climate. His research interests are in the fields of Climate change, Radiative forcing, climate modelling, climate change impact, climate change

Matthew Hawcroft

Role: Researcher Matthew is a Research Fellow within Exeter Climate Systems. His work for IMPALA involves evaluating large-scale controls on African climate with a specific focus on the global sources of regional bias in climate models, such as the global energy budget and regional/global

James Haywood

Role: Project Lead Jim has interests that include in-situ and remote sensing measurements of atmospheric aerosols and modelling their impacts upon weather, air-quality, visibility and climate. He has led many aircraft-based measurement campaigns investigating the impacts of Saharan dust over West Africa, biomass-burning smoke

Linda Hirons

Role: Researcher Linda is a Research Scientist in the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS)-Climate based in the Walker Institute within the Department of Meteorology. Linda’s research interests lie in the drivers of climate variability and change in Africa, the role of air-sea interactions in sub-seasonal climate variability,

Richard Jones

Role: Researcher Richard is a Science Fellow at the Met Office and manages work on generating and applying regional climate information and modelling systems with a focus on international development. Richard has a Ph.D. in Mathematics in the analysis of numerical methods relevant to

Lawrence Jackson

Role: Researcher Lawrence is a Research Fellow with the Leeds University’s School of Earth and Environment. Lawrence worked as an actuary in the life & pensions industry from 1987 to 2006. In 2006 he returned to university to study environmental science at the University

Rachel James

Role: Researcher Rachel is a climate scientist, interested in change in African climate systems, and how climate science can provide more useful information for decision-makers. As part of IMPALA she is focusing on evaluating models over southern Africa. In UMFULA, she is investigating processes of

Ben Lamptey

Role: Researcher Ben is a researcher at the The National Center for Atmospheric Research, part of the The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research which provides research, observing and computing facilities, and a variety of services for the atmospheric and related Earth sciences community. Ben has been

Sean Milton

Role: Co-Principal Investigator Sean leads the Global Model Evaluation and Diagnostics section at the Met Office, developing the Global Atmosphere configurations of the Unified Model across all timescales. Sean focuses on i) diagnosing global model systematic errors and performance against observations ii) coordinating the

Joseph Mutemi

Role: Researcher Joseph is a lecturer at the University of Nairobi in the meteorology Department where he obtained his BSc, MSc and a Ph.D. His research interests lie in Weather and climate dynamics and physical modelling for weather and climate prediction deterministic models, global

Douglas Parker

Role: Co-Principal Investigator Doug is a lecturer in the School of Earth and Environment at Leeds University where he leads a strong research group studying climate dynamics of Africa, with a track record of collaborative work in the region. His research focuses on the physics

Wilfried Pokam

Role: Early Career Researcher Wilfried is a lecturer at the University of Yaounde’s Department of Physics. His research interest is identifying key processes of climate variability in central Africa, mainly in the atmospheric water cycle, and analyse their representations in simulations of GCMs to

Gabriel Rooney

Role: Climate Lead Researcher Gabriel has been a member of Parametrizations since 2006 and prior to that spent several years working in Observations Based Research at the Met Office Research Unit at Cardington. He obtained his PhD on plume-flow modelling from DAMTP, University of Cambridge, following

Philip Stier

Role: Climate Lead Philip is a Professor of Atmospheric Physics at the Department of Physics and a Fellow in Physics at Oriel College, University of Oxford. He heads the Climate Processes Group in Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics of the Department of Physics at Oxford and is currently

Rachel Stratton

Role: Co-Principal Investigator Rachel is a senior scientist working on convection, she is the convection scheme code owner and works on improving the convective parameterization scheme in the Unified Model. Rachel started at the Met Office in 1985, working for 5 years on ocean wave

Andrew Turner

Role: Co-Principal Investigator Andrew is a former NERC Fellow and now Lecturer in Monsoon Systems funded by the University of Reading’s Academic Investment Programme and NCAS-Climate. His general interests are in monsoon variability, predictability and prediction including the interaction between monsoon systems and other elements of the climate

Michael Vellinga

Role: Researcher Michael works on making monthly-to-decadal forecasts over Africa better geared towards users and on the irreversible change in the meridional overturning circulation. His research focuses on multi-year changes of rainfall over the Sahel. His work aims to improve understanding of why many

IMPALA is now in its final year. Plans up to project end in February 2019 include:

  • Consolidate research on the remote and local drivers of African climate and their representation in the Met Office Unified Model (MetUM) and continue submissions to peer-reviewed journals
  • Hold the 4th and final IMPALA science meeting in December 2019
  • Complete 10 years of future climate simulations with the very high resolution, convection-permitting pan-African regional model (CP4-Africa) and provide outputs to the other FCFA consortia. Used with the now completed 10 years of present-day climate simulations, these provide a unique resource to complement conventional model inputs and inform climate change related decision making
  • Release a new version of the global MetUM including upgrades that improve Africa performance – as informed by IMPALA research.
  • Evaluate the new MetUM version over Africa and assess improvements relative to the pre-IMPALA baseline.
  • Advance the development of an Africa model evaluation Hub – coordinating efforts on model evaluation for African climate processes and assisting to accelerate model improvements.
  • Work with the FCFA Regional Consortia to complete cross-FCFA outputs, specifically:
    • Prepare a manuscript describing the CP4-Africa present-day and future simulations as well as applications studies targeted at enabling unique resources to Regional Consortia stakeholders (e.g. new understanding of changes to heavy rain frequency and dry spells)
    • Prepare a technical guide to assist future access to and analysis of CP4-Africa by researchers outside of FCFA in Africa and globally

Read the reports of our previous science meetings:

First IMPALA Science meeting, Exeter, December 10-11, 2015. View the report here

Second IMPALA Science meeting, Leeds, January 19-20, 2017. View the report here

Third IMPALA Science meeting, University of Reading, December 12-13, 2017. View the report here







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