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Fabrice Muvundja (left) and John Selker (right) in Rotterdam, March 2015

Fabrice Muvundja (left) and John Selker (right) in Rotterdam, March 2015

Last March, Fabrice Muvundja paid a brief visit to Rotterdam to meet up with TAHMO co-directors John Selker and Nick van de Giesen. Fabrice was finishing up his PhD research on “Hydrological variability and biogeochemistry of particulate organic matter in a large tropical rift lake, Lake Kivu (East Africa)”. Lake Kivu is a very interesting lake at the border of Rwanda and Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The bottom of the lake contains high concentrations of methane and carbon dioxide. If the lake were to overturn, the lives of the two million people who live around Lake Kivu would be in danger.

About one thousand years ago, this was the last time this occurred. At present, the plans are to extract methane from the lake without disturbing its stratification. Monitoring is the main tool to ensure no such disaster will occur. Monitoring the weather is one part that is needed, which is why Fabrice contacted TAHMO. It was agreed to set up three stations as a pilot activity Eastern DRC. Three schools were selected. The first one is in the South at Fabrice’s own school, ISP Bukavu, where he teaches in the Department of Chemistry. The second one will be placed at a school on the island of Idjwi in the more central part of the lake. Finally, the third station will be placed at the Ecole du Cinquantenaire in Goma at the northern part of the lake. The Ecole du Cinquantenaire is a special school that was inaugurated only recently and educates students in the fields of Civil Aviation, Construction, Electronics, and Petro-Chemistry.

On Tuesday 14 July 2015, the three stations were handed over in Kigali, Rwanda. Sister Jeanne-Marie, the director of the Ecole du Cinquantenaire, had traveled especially for this occasion from Goma, as had Fabrice from Bukavu. The three stations will monitor the western part of Lake Kivu and thereby contribute to the management of this unique lake.

Opening of the Ecole du Cinquantenaire, with left Sister Jeanne-Marie

Opening of the Ecole du Cinquantenaire, with left Sister Jeanne-Marie

FishermenTAHMO, along with 4 partner institutions, have been selected to move onto the second stage of funding from the Global Resilience Partnership Challenge. This challenges focuses on bringing together people and organizations from across sectors to collaborate on innovative solutions for climate change resilience. TAHMO, the lead organization, is working with Earth Networks, Human Network International, Climate Change Adaptation Innovation (CHAI), and African Centres for Lightning and Electromagnetics (ACLE) to create an Early Warning System around Lake Victoria, improving fisherman and sailor safety through accurate and timely severe weather alerts. As this system expands across Uganda, it will provide critical high-resolution weather information country-wide to enable climate-ready response actions by stakeholders in the agricultural, transport, aviation, and public health sectors.

Lake Victoria, a source of livelihood for 35 million people who live along its shores[1], has an estimated 5,000 deaths per year due to drowning[2]. Increasing fisherman and sailor access to early alerts for severe weather which cause dangerous high winds, waves, and lightning, is crucial to reducing the number of deaths on the lake. Additionally, this weather information can be used by multiple entities to strengthen rural resilience to climate change through agricultural insurance, improved farmer planting practices, and informed transport  and food processing decisions.

Currently, TAHMO is installing 6 automatic weather stations in southern Uganda with the support of the Ugandan National Meteorological Authority. In the next phase, TAHMO is planning to install over 200 stations for a dense country-wide weather observation network to support Earth Network’s installation of total lightning detectors. Together, these sensors will supply much-needed weather data to enhance severe weather predictions for the region. But an Early Warning System consists of more than risk knowledge and data collection, appropriate alert dissemination and educated stakeholder are necessary for transformative action to occur. To enable mass dissemination of the enhanced alert information, HNI is creating a 3-2-1 voice call-in and SMS platform that will deliver much needed information free-of-charge to any mobile phone in Uganda. This free service will be accompanied by value-added products that generate revenue for the system, allowing it to become financially sustainable in the long-term.


[2]Mary Ak, Gomes C. Lightning safety of under-privileged communities around Lake Victoria. Geomatics, Natural Hazards and Risk 2014; (ahead-of-print): 1-17.

Visualization of weather stationWhile all of the climate variables measured by TAHMO hydro-meteorology stations are important for researchers and scientists, precipitation data are often the most valuable for farmers, weather insurance providers and other African stakeholders. Unfortunately, precipitation is also one of the most difficult variables to measure accurately, especially when rainfall is very light or very intense. Traditional rain gauges use a tipping bucket design, which incorporates a rocking mechanism designed to tip after filling with a pre-determined volume of water. If the bucket does not fill completely, the rocking mechanism does not tip, so the gauge’s ability to record small rain events over short time intervals is often limited. Further, in high-intensity events, the buckets splash and the time of tipping becomes a limitation, so the gauge under-reports.  Additionally, the tipping bucket gauge’s moving parts make it susceptible to mis-calibration and failure in environments where dust and insects are prevalent.

In an effort to mitigate these challenges, Decagon Devices, Inc. recently designed a new, no-moving-parts rain gauge ten times more sensitive than most tipping bucket gauges. The gauge, which is incorporated in all new TAHMO stations, measures precipitation depths as small as 0.02 mm. It does so by directing collected water between two electrical contacts and calculating the size of the individual drops. In addition, the gauge measures the electrical conductivity of the water, which, when combined with soil water data, allow quantitative partitioning the water which infiltrates into the soil and that which runs off, the key requirement for calculation of a local water balance and aquifer recharge.

The gauge has performed well in lab and field tests, and is able to measure events ranging from the formation of dew to heavy storms with intensities of over 200 mm/hr. Also, because the gauge measures precipitation electronically, calibration can be both dynamic and adjusted remotely—critical features for the regions where TAHMO works. We believe that advances like these will continue to reduce the costs of data collection while improving data quality, and our partnership with Decagon continues to produce exciting results!

Kigali Agricultural Show of 2015 at the Dutch Pavilion

Kigali Agricultural Show of 2015 at the Dutch Pavilion

At the beginning of June, Zach and Friso went to Rwanda to explore the possibilities for TAHMO. Together with Norbert van der Straaten and William Mwangi they met with the Rwanda Meteo Agency where they discussed the possibilities for collaboration. The Rwanda Meteo Agency already has 42 weather stations operational, which is more than TAHMO’s guideline of 1 every 30 km. However, because the geography of Rwanda is predominantly rolling hills, more might be required. Preparations are made to sign an MoU between both parties.

Furthermore, the TAHMO group visited the Gashora Girls Academy for possible implementation of a weather station and to explore the possibilities of hosting the VIA Water business development workshop. The school is the best middle school in Rwanda, with state-of-the-art facilities like a large farm, on site accommodation and fast and stable IT capabilities. Students on this school are encouraged to excel and the goal of the academy is to send one third of the students to top universities in the world (e.g. Ivy league). The academy proofed to be a perfect location for the weather station, and the staff was enthusiastic to assist in hosting the workshop.

Finally, TAHMO was present at the Kigali Agricultural Show of 2015 at the Dutch Pavilion (Holland Paviljoen). Here, farmers and interested local and regional institutions were introduced to the TAHMO concept and the TAHMO weather station. Rwanda shows great opportunities for TAHMO to vastly expand the network of weather stations and weather data in Africa.

Teacher helping with the installation of the AWS

Installation at the Populier, the Hague

At the beginning of this year we started a competition for teachers, in which we asked teachers to share their favorite lesson plans related to weather and climate. The most creative, useful and innovative lesson plan was created by Eric Schippers from the Populier, a secondary school in the Hague, the Netherlands. His lesson plan was about solar cookers, which students have to design, make, test and evaluate. The TAHMO-members thought this lesson plan fits TAHMO’s vision, is very innovative and contributes to the 21st century skills.

TAHMO workshop at the Populier

TAHMO workshop at the Populier during 24 hours challenge

With winning this competition, the Populier got a TAHMO weather station installed on top of the school building. Additionally, the school is now part of the School2School pilot in the Netherlands. Together with another Dutch school, named Haagsche Schoolvereeniging, the school will test several lesson plans and provide feedback for optimization. Furthermore, these two pilot schools are closely involved in the creation of the entire School2School program and its activities.

The Populier is known of its very creative and active science department, in which maker education plays a major role. It is also noticeable that the students are very engaged and motivated. In June, for example, they organised a 24-hours marathon to raise money for better education in Ethiopia, in which students got 24 hours non stop lessons. During day and night students did several workshops, games and a walking tour to the beach. One of the lessons was about TAHMO and students could make an acoustic rain gauge, which was conducted by Nadine Rodewijk. A total amount of 5000,- has been raised during this intensive event.

nsf_02The US National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a 3-year grant to Oregon State University and City University of New York to develop new algorithms for automated data quality control (QC). The data collected by networks (such as TAHMO) must be checked for sensor failures. Traditionally, this has been done manually by having expert meteorologists and hydrologists examine the data from each station. While this works for small networks, it is completely impractical for a network the size of TAHMO. This project will develop new machine learning algorithms for anomaly detection and integrate them into a software framework, called SENSOR-DX, for analyzing sensor data in real time to detect sensors that have drifted out of calibration or failed in some way.  Tom Dietterich (Oregon State) will lead the algorithm development and Michael Piasecki (City University of New York) will direct a subteam to implement the algorithms and workflows within the Kepler scientific workflow management system. The resulting system will be deployed for TAHMO Data QC and will be evaluated by several partner organizations (Oklahoma Mesonet, Earth Networks, and CUAHSI) for potential deployment as well.

This March, Leah Tai headed to East Africa with two new weather stations to join Zachary Dunn, the East Africa Field Coordinator, and install sensors with partners in the School-2-School program. Homa Bay High, a large school with over 1,000 students that sits near the coast of Lake Victoria, was the site of the first installation. Fishing is a main livelihood in the coastal area, and when the region’s rainy season starts in April the grain farming sector starts booming.

Homa Bay High’s partner school, Timberline High is a large school in Boise, Idaho, where students are focusing on building arduino based weather stations to compare with national weather reports. The weather station installation at Homa Bay High allows students to use their new computer lab and check the local weather conditions in their front yard, comparing them to regional weather reports from the Kenya Met Service and sending the information to their partner school in Boise, Idaho.

Leah and Zach are heading to Ombeyi High School next week to install their weather station and introduce students at Ombeyi High to their partner school, Capital High in Idaho. After installing the stations at each school, physics, geography, and math teachers are shown how to access the data through an online portal at www.TAHMO.org, here they can download their site’s data and allow students to track changes over time. Resources on using the data in classroom activities are provided by TAHMO, and teachers are encouraged to brainstorm new practical applications and share them through the website with one another.

Ghana1TAHMO is working on various aspects: developing a better weather station; educating young people in Africa about climate change by providing schools an educational program and; developing local business cases with local entrepreneurs to cover the running costs of the weather stations, data collecting and data assimilation to ensure a sustainable future for the project. Last month, some of the TAHMO team members went to Ghana to work on developing business models together with local partners. In two weeks many potential business models have been generated, validated, prototyped and evaluated.

In Ghana TAHMO partnered up with a young social enterprise called Farmerline. They are a technology product company building supply chain and value chain solutions to integrate agricultural outputs of rural farmers in Africa/emerging markets. In Ghana Farmerline will be responsible for ‘packaging’ the climate data generated by TAHMO into a product which need to reach 10.000 small-holder cocoa farmers in a year and a half.

Boukje Vastbinder (TU Delft) was asked to help with the kick-off of the business case development and prepared a 4 day workshop to help planning the business case development process. Their findings can be found below.

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