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UMFULA: Uncertainty Reduction in Models for Understanding Development Applications

Project timeline

Project Contact

Prof Declan Conway

Principal Investigator

UMFULA (“river” in Zulu) is a research project that aims to improve climate information for decision-making in central and southern Africa, with a particular focus on Tanzania and Malawi. The team is generating for the region new insights and more reliable information about climate processes and extreme weather events and their impacts on water, energy and agriculture, with the aim to support long-term – 5 to 40 years – planning decisions around resource use, infrastructure investment and cross-sectoral growth priorities. UMFULA is a global consortium of 14 institutions specialising in cutting-edge climate science, impact modelling and socio-economic research.

UMFULA researchers and decision-makers in the Rufiji River Basin in Tanzania and in the Shire River Basin in Malawi partner in a collaborative dialogue to identify critical vulnerabilities and thresholds where climate change may pose unacceptable risks to planned development activities. By having a clearer description of how the climate will change over the next 5-40 years and a better understanding of the political economy affecting decisions in the region, the team is working to produce scenarios for the climate in the decades ahead, including the effects of ‘high impact’ events, like intense rainfall and droughts, on natural resources and socio-economic activities. This work highlights the trade-offs that decision-makers face in the context of an uncertain future climate and rapid economic change and it informs national and local planning and policy processes.

The team supports a range of actors involved in development decisions to evaluate future climate scenarios and identify various adaptation options which are robust and resilient in the face of climate change and other non-climate stressors: this includes actors at the national, district and basin levels and in the private sector. In the private sector, the team is specifically working with the tea and sugar industries. The work with the tea industry also covers western Kenya and is in partnership with HyCRISTAL.

Whilst we have confidence in the ability of Global Climate Models (GCM) to project future temperatures, rainfall is much more uncertain.  The rain that falls in any one place at any time reflects the nature of atmospheric and oceanic circulation.  Although circulation patterns are evident at a global scale, they are mediated by local factors, which include topography and the formation of local weather systems.  Central and southern Africa is subject to tropical weather systems (that form around the equator) and also sub-tropical and temperate systems to the south of the continent.

With a cold ocean (Atlantic) on the western side and a warm ocean (Indian) to the east, the region is also subject to particular ocean-atmosphere interactions. UMFULA is investigating a variety of factors that affect central and southern Africa’s climate through circulation patterns and ocean-atmosphere interaction.  These include the Angola Low, temperate tropical cloud bands, tropical ex-tropical cloud bands and subtropical highs. A better understanding of the mechanisms that are responsible for climate variability allows us to evaluate how well GCMs replicate climate conditions, thus increasing our confidence in projections of future climate.

In the context of the recent damaging extreme events in the region, UMFULA is also investigating the future characteristics of extreme rainfall events over Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania which result from extreme deep convection and tropical lows/tropical cyclones.

Weruwetsa Ngowi

Role: Early Career Researcher Weruwetsa is completing his MSc. in Environmental Technology and Management. His research is titled, “Processes for Climate Change Adaptation Planning in the Water Sector: A Case of Kilombero Sub-catchment in Rufiji River Basin, Tanzania.” The proposed research intends to identify gaps in

Emanuel Lorivi Moirana

Role: Early Career Researcher Emanuel is completing his MSc in Wildlife Conservation. His research is titled, “Climate Variability and Climate Information Use for Water Conservation Decisions in Kilombero River Catchment (KRC), Tanzania”. The findings will reveal how climate information is currently used by different

Magdalena Jonas Mkhandi

Role: Early Career Researcher Magdalena is completing her MSc. study, titled, “Climate change impacts on hydrological extremes and urban infrastructure: a case of Ifakara Township in Kilombero District, Tanzania”. The study will generate results that could be used by various institutions in planning development. The

Innocent Patrick Lyamuya

Role: Early Career Researcher Innocent is conducting research on an “assessment of Climate Change Impacts on Irrigation Water Requirements in Mbarali River Catchment” for his MSc. research. The study tries to understand the impacts of climate change on irrigation water demands. Various scenarios of

Declan Conway

Role: Principal Investigator Declan is a Professorial Research Fellow at the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics. Declan’s research cuts across water, climate and society, with a strong focus on adaptation and international development. Originally a geographer, Declan draws on insights

Estelle Rouhaud

Role: Project Manager Estelle joined the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment in April 2014. Assisting in managing the Institute’s relationships with its funders, she is responsible for a portfolio of its research grants over the whole funding cycle, including grant

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

Emma Archer van Garderen

Role: Co-Principal Investigator Dr. Archer van Garderen is a CSIR chief researcher and climate expert, working on the crucial role weather plays on agriculture and livestock. Emma is currently doing a lot of collaborative research with government and other stakeholders on the possible future

Julia Mambo

Role: Early Career Researcher Dr. Mambo is a Senior Researcher in the Climate Studies, Modelling and Environmental Health Group at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in the Natural Resources and Environment (NRE) Department. Julia has a Ph.D. in Geography from the University

Rondrotiana Barimalala

Role: Early Career Researcher A post-doc researcher at UCT, Rondro was previously at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China. Her research interest spans climate and ocean dynamics, variability and modelling. Within UMFULA, she will investigate the role of the tropical Indian Ocean on Central

Ajay Bhave

Role: Researcher Ajay is a research officer at the Sustainability Research Institute, University of Leeds. His research focuses on climate change adaptation in water resources, stakeholder perceptions and decision-making approaches. Ajay is an Erasmus Mundus Scholarship awardee for the European MSc. programme in Environmental

Amy Creese

Role: Early Career Researcher Amy’s Ph.D. focuses on the simulation of rainfall and circulation variables over the Congo basin in climate models, in particular, the CMIP5 suite. Her research uses process-based assessments to identify the causes of differences between model rainfall climatologies, and aims

Claire Davis

Role: Researcher Claire Davis is a climate change impacts and adaptation specialist with a particular research interest in the field of biodiversity and conservation. She currently holds the position of Researcher in the Natural Resources and the Environment Unit (NRE) at CSIR and is

Andrew Dougill

Role: Co-Principal Investigator Andy is a dryland environmental change researcher at the University of Leeds who has developed research approaches that integrate a range of disciplines including soil science, ecology, development studies and environmental social sciences. His work has developed innovative research methodologies for

Suraje Dessai

Role: Co-Principal Investigator Suraje Dessai is Professor of Climate Change Adaptation at the Sustainability Research Institute in the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds. His current research and teaching focuses on the management of climate change uncertainties, the perception of

Fabien Desbiolles

Role: Researcher Mr. Desbiolles is a researcher at the University of Cape Town working on physical oceanography, atmospheric modelling and the Eastern Boundary Upwelling System.

Robel Geressu

Role: Researcher Gerussu is a water resource analyst based at the University of Manchester, working on how to apply state of the art methods for tackling complex management and planning issues on the Nile. His on-going work includes multi-reservoir system design screening, multi-reservoir system

Emma Howard

Role: Early Career Researcher Emma is a Ph.D. student at the School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford. She studies the regional scale atmospheric circulation of tropical south-west Africa, with a view to elicit a better understanding of summer rainfall across southern Africa. This

Julien Harou

Role: Co-Principal Investigator Julien is the chair in water engineering in MACE, University of Manchester. He has a Ph.D. from the University of California in water resources management and economics and an MEng from Cornell University in Environmental Systems Engineering. His research interests relate

Neil Hart

Role: Early Career Researcher Neil Hart focuses on understanding weather and climate variability and predictability, with a curiosity for interactions between processes across spatio-temporal scales. He is a researcher in African climate science at the School of Geography, Oxford. His Ph.D. research, completed at

Graham Jewitt

Role: Co-Principal Investigator Graham holds the Umgeni Water Chair of Water Resources Management and is the Director of the Centre for Water Resources Research at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He leads several water and earth system science related initiatives with the relationship between land

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

Seshagirirao Kolusu

Role: Researcher Seshagiri Rao Kolusu is a researcher at the University of Sussex. Kolusu’s work focuses on quantifying the impacts of Biomass Burning aerosols on weather and climate. He is aiming to quantify the impacts using the SAMBBA flight observations data and the Met

Japhet J. Kashaigili

Role: Co-Principal Investigator Japhet is an Engineer with more than 18 years of professional experience in teaching, research and consultancies in water resources, agricultural water management, wetland ecosystems management, eco-hydrological analysis, climate change and adaptations, environmental impact assessment, programme and project evaluation and monitoring

Melissa Lazenby

Role: Researcher Melissa has recently completed her Ph.D. at Sussex University where her research explored future climate projections over Southern Africa based on the understanding of contemporary model performance through model evaluation of CMIP5 models. Key signals over the region were identified and understanding

Emmanuel Likoya

Role: Researcher Emmanuel holds a BSc. in Environmental Science from the University of Malawi and a Postgraduate Diploma in Gender Studies from the University of Iceland. Emmanuel is currently pursuing an MSc. in Climate Change and Development at the University of Cape Town and

Diana Mataya

Role: Researcher Diana Mataya is a climate change researcher and disaster risk management professional. She has worked for various organisations including the Institute for Policy Research and Social Empowerment and Regional Hunger Vulnerability Programme. Currently, she is an Independent Research Assistant with Kulima Integrated

David Mkwambisi

Role: Co-Principal Investigator David is Associate Professor of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Bunda,  with a Ph.D. and MSc. in Environment and Development from Universities of Leeds and East Anglia (UK) respectively and a Diploma and BSc. in Agriculture from the University of

Rebecka Malinga

Role: Researcher Rebecka Malinga is a post-doc researcher at the Centre for Water Resources Research at the University of KwaZulu-Natal to carry out research within UMFULA. She received her Ph.D. in Sustainability Science at Stockholm Resilience Centre, Sweden. Rebecka is interested in transdisciplinary research with

Callum Munday

Role: Early Career Researcher Callum is a Ph.D. student based in the School of Geography, Oxford. His work focusses on understanding why climate models have different representations of rainfall in southern Africa. In the context of UMFULA, Callum is particularly interested in how model simulation of important regional circulation features may

Makarius Mdemu

Role: Co-Principal Investigator Dr. Mdemu is currently a lecturer at Ardhi University, Tanzania, and an independent consultant. Dr. Mdemu is specialised in Water Resources Management, Agricultural /Irrigation Water Management, Land management, Rainwater Harvesting and Management, Environmental Impact Assessment, Climate Change, adaptation and mitigation studies.

Simphiwe Ngcobo

Role: Researcher Simphiwe Ngcobo is currently a Hydrology Lecturer at the Centre for Water Resources at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. His research interests include understanding the dynamics between anthropogenic global change and hydrological processes and responses. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. focused on

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

Joanna Pardoe

Role: Researcher Joanna is a postdoctoral researcher on the Future Climate For Africa UMFULA project. Her doctoral thesis examined vulnerability and adaptation to multiple hazards in West Africa and her work on UMFULA will build on this with a focus on decision making under uncertainty

Chris Reason

Role: Co-Principal Investigator Chris Reason is involved with research relating to Southern Hemisphere climate variability, southern African rainfall variability, mesoscale and coastal meteorology, tropical meteorology and oceanography, severe weather, ocean-atmosphere interactions, Indian and South Atlantic Oceans, Southern Ocean, ocean and atmospheric modelling.

Philip Stier

Role: CI Phillip Stier 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

Lindsay Stringer

Role: Co-Principal Investigator Lindsay’s research is interdisciplinary and uses theories and methods from both the natural and social sciences. Her work engages with research users, and is instrumental in informing international policy interventions through the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Lindsay is

Sabine Stuart-Hill

Role: Researcher          Sabine works as a lecturer at UKZN, her area of expertise is adaptive water management and water governance of South Africa. A specific focus is mainstreaming climate change and adaptation into decision-making processes. She is involved in the Governance Think Tank of

Christian Siderius

Role: Researcher Christian is a research officer at the Grantham Research Institute. Christian studies people’s adaptation strategies to climate variability and uncertainty, applying economic concepts like flexibility and diversification. Christian holds a Masters degree in hydrology and a Ph.D. in environmental economics from Wageningen University in

Swenja Surminski

Role: Co-Principal Investigator    Swenja is a Senior Research Fellow at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She is Programme Leader for the ‘climate risk, insurance, and private sector’ work-stream at

Martin Todd

Role: Co-Principal Investigator Martin Todd is a climate scientist in the Geography Department at the University of Sussex. His research interests include the role of mineral dust aerosols in the climate system, climate change impacts on hydrological systems and the variability in the tropical

Dorothy Tembo-Nhlema

Role: Researcher Dorothy is an independent contractor working with Kulima Integrated Development Solutions and with the Centre For Environmental Policy and Advocacy, a Malawian NGO, as a Senior Programme Officer. She has a BSc. in Agriculture Economics from Bunda College, Malawi, and is currently finalizing

Katharine Vincent

Role: Co-Principal Investigator Katharine is a director at Kulima Integrated Development Solutions, a consultancy working to address the risks of climate change and secure human development. Her work focuses on linking scientific and academic research with the policy and practice communities. She has a BA

Richard Washington

Role: Co-Principal Investigator Richard Washington is Professor of Climate Science at the School of Geography and the Environment and Fellow of Keble College, Oxford. He specialises in African climate science and runs the African Climate research group. Richard’s research is concerned with the African

Ross Blamey

Role: Researcher Ross is a Post-Doctoral Researcher at UCT.

Daleen Lotter

Role: Researcher Daleen is a researcher in the Climate studies, Modelling and Environmental Health research group at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Her research interests lie in the application of climate models to address the impact of climate change on agricultural systems

Edmund Mutayoba

Role: Researcher Edmund is a Ph.D. Student at Sokoine University of Agriculture

Madaka Tumbo

Role: Researcher Madaka is the Deputy Director of the Institute of Resource Assessment, University of Dar Es Salaam and a Senior Program Officer for the African Climate Change Fellowship Program.

Patrick Valimba

Role: Co-Principal Investigator Patrick is a researcher at the University of Dar Es Salaam.

Michelle Warburton

Role: Researcher Dr Warbuton is a researcher at the University of KwaZulu Natal.

Shenge Mthokozisi Buthelezi

Role: Early Career Researcher Shenge’s topic is: Ground-truthing of the civil society weather observations from the Whatsapp group “Weather chasers Malawi”. Shenge will investigate the opportunities to ground-truth civil society’s weather observations in Malawi by assessing the multiple purpose communication of the Whatsapp group “Weather

Balungile Gumbi

Role: Early Career Researcher Balungile’s research topic is: Structuring Disaster Data for Preventive Disaster Risk Planning and Management In Malawi. Balungile will evaluate the disaster data recorded at local communities and districts for the national Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DODMA). Balungile will structure the

Lizeth Nompumelelo Nkambule

Role: Early Career Researcher Lizeth is currently completing her MSc. in Hydrology at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. She is investigating the likely consequences of changes in key climate metrics on the yields from smallholder sugar cane and tea outgrower schemes, and exploring the implications thereof







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