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May blog 2023

Why Your Local Weather Prediction Could Be Wrong .tahmo May 2023 blog

Have you ever checked the weather forecast, only to find out that it was completely wrong? It can be frustrating, but there are many factors that can influence the accuracy of weather predictions. Let’s take a closer look at why weather predictions aren’t always spot on.

Weather predictions are developed by complex mathematical equations that take into account various variables such as temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, air pressure, and more. However, even with all this data and sophisticated models, there are still many factors that can influence the accuracy of weather predictions.

One of the most significant factors is the availability of accurate data. Weather predictions depend on the collection of precise and timely data from various sources, such as satellites, weather balloons, ground-based weather stations, and radars. If the data is incomplete, outdated, or inaccurate, the predictions are likely to be less reliable.

Another factor that can affect the accuracy of weather predictions is the complexity of the atmosphere itself. The atmosphere is a chaotic and dynamic system, which means that even small changes in one part of the system can have significant impacts on the weather in another part. This makes it challenging to predict the weather, especially over longer time horizons accurately.

Finally, weather predictions are always subject to a degree of uncertainty. Weather models are based on probabilistic forecasts, which means that they provide a range of possible outcomes rather than a definitive answer. It’s important to keep this in mind when interpreting weather predictions and to understand that unexpected changes in the weather can always occur.

Fortunately, organizations such as TAHMO are working to improve weather prediction accuracy. TAHMO is building a network of high-quality weather stations across Africa that provide reliable real-time data. This data can be utilized to improve weather prediction models and help make weather predictions more accurate.

So, the next time you check the weather forecast and it doesn’t come out as predicted, don’t be too hard on the weatherman. After all, weather predictions are simply predictions and not facts. It’s important to understand the limitations of these predictions and to keep in mind the many factors that can influence their accuracy.

Written by Gilbert Mwangi, Technical Director TAHMO

TAHMO country representative for Kenya Victor Omoit joined Faith Wawira – Senior ICT Officer (WRA)   and Joseph Mukola – Principal Meteorology Technician (KMD) on a five-day field work to carry out regular maintenance on 10 Automatic Weather Stations installed in the Nzoia basin.

The team started their work in the Eldoret sub-region then in the Kitale Sub-region and finally complete their activity in Kakamega.

The stations involved were at the following locations: Ndalat, Naiberi, Turbo NYS, Chebororwa ATC, Kapcherop, Mt Elgon Flowers, Koitobos, Ndalu, Malava, Nzoia Sugar Company and finally Butere Girls High School.

Early warning Systems could contribute up to 36:1 in terms of benefit-cost ratios in developing countries. However, they are often non-functional mostly due to a lack of weather and stream-flow data (WMO-No.1153). This is the challenge that TAHMO  is addressing with a dense network of ground observing stations that provide near real-time reliable data to improve Numerical Weather Predictions (NWP) and hydrological models for Africa through data assimilation (satellites and in-situ data). https://tahmo.org/climate-data/

Whatever solution is provided for an Early Warning System should be easily scalable, sustainable and impactful. It needs to be a complete end-to-end solution that involves data collection, processing and dissemination of “localized” information to end users and the use of the information in their activities in the form of warnings to build their resilience through disaster preparedness and flood risk reduction. This is the basis for which the Water Resources Authority (WRA) installed an Early Warning System consisting of 10 Automatic Weather Stations and 7 Automatic Water Level Stations in 2018/2019 and TAHMO is very happy to have been part of this project.

On March 15, Kenya was put on partial lockdown after 2 COVID cases were reported in the country.  Alongside the government-imposed dusk-to-dawn curfew, schools were closed and movement restricted. Within a week, the lockdown wave had spread to most East African countries. It created a sense of panic, fear and uncertainty. This hit our team hard because our work involves traveling, meetings and working with schools. I wondered how we would carry on with field activities.

At TAHMO East Africa, we have an elaborate guideline for field work that ensures we provide high-quality data. If a weather station is faulty for instance, our first point of contact is the host who checks if the issue is minor and where possible resolves the issue. But if the issue is more complicated, one of our technicians/meteorologists/engineers visits the site. Additionally, we have put up structures for preventing station failures. One way is by yearly preventive maintenance where we visit all the stations to identify any potential future problems and resolve them beforehand.

When lockdown came along, we were at the peak of our yearly stations maintenance. I also had scheduled travels, clients to meet, projects to initiate and projects to push forward. All this put me in a limbo. Top on my list of attention was how our team would carry along repairs. There are no two ways with weather stations. If it is not working, data not captured will never be recovered. But how then would we carry on with the activities with COVID challenges?

In Kenya, most stations are hosted in schools. When schools shut a big number of teachers relocated. We did not have effective communication with the hosts anymore. Traveling to the sites was a challenge too. You would be comforted with several fears – caught out of time due to delays in screenings mounted in roadblocks, or at worst, being put on government quarantine.

By mid-April, we had put up a structure where more people would help with field activities. In Kenya for instance Victor (TAHMO Engineer) involved former interns and volunteers living in areas where we could not travel to assist with some of the work. In Rwanda, Honore (TAHMO Engineer), trained new technicians via zoom that would take work in areas in regions he was unable to travel.

At the time of this writing (mid-July 2020) countries are easing restrictions. There is less fear – we have probably learned to carry on with our work amidst the challenges. TAHMO East Africa Network improved tremendously in the last two months. Not everything is working right, and we do not expect everything to be smooth soon. There is still a sense of uncertainty about how the future will look after COVID.  But we will keep the hope and develop more ways of keeping our work going.