TAHMO

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The idea of TAHMO started back in 2010/2011 and was formalized through a foundation in 2014. Since 2014 the organization managed to install over 400+ weather stations across 20 African countries. An amazing achievement. However, this did not go as simple as an ABC. Through this blog we would like to lift the curtain on some of the challenges that we faced throughout the years. Perhaps you – our reader – are able to come up with suggestion or ideas to smoothen the challenges that we face up ahead.

So here come the six challenges that TAHMO faces.

Administrative challenges

Have a partnership agreement with national metrological agencies. Every country has a different administrative structure. Countries differ in the way they do business and set up collaboration programs. How do you share data? Who gets it first? How do you share costs and revenues? Who does the maintenance? All these questions need to be answered before you can operate in the area of a governmental agency.

Find an experienced local host who is available in the case of station maintenance. The training that one has to give a local host depends on the various factors. Like is the host staying in the area for the long term? We create a shared responsibility by providing the local host with access to the weather data. This is how the school2school platform was set up. This resulted that most of the local hosts are teachers. Consequently, with 400+ weather stations, this means that a lot of hosts are needed which puts the strain on good & quality relationship management with each host.

Economic challenges

Weather stations are not free. Funding is needed to buy the stations and put them in the right location. We have to pay for the installation and maintenance of each station. Now, here is a little eye-opener: the larger your infrastructure, the more money you have to pay for your maintenance. And maintenance is not always easy. Some weather stations might be right around the corner. But sometimes you must drive up a full day for a quick fix. And although our weather station is the most robust weather stations out there, that does not guarantee a maintenance-free infrastructure. Leaves can get into the funnel, sensors might stop working, or perhaps a tree has overgrown near our weather station, influencing the data.

Equipment challenges

Everywhere we go, we find a different setting with different conditions. The access to the site might be bad, there are safety concerns of theft of our weather stations and more. Sensors might stop working, a hardware update might deplete the batteries and if the station is not regularly cleaned, it will influence the data and even might stop working. For this reason, we promote the cleaning of our stations through our social media. To create awareness that infrastructure should be regularly maintained.

Data Sharing Challenges

The TAHMO weather stations collect data. But with big data, comes great responsibility. With whom do we share this data? What do our partners want to do with it? Should we give it to other governmental institutions like housing or military? Could our data be used to harm people or minorities? These questions are of major importance which have – most of the time – no clear answers. 

Setting up the infrastructure has not been easy. But with the help of our partners, researchers, enthusiast, volunteers, and our great team, we’ve managed to install 400+ weather stations in 20 countries. A great success.

Do you have ideas on how to help TAHMO? Please share them by sending an email to info@tahmo.org

**Written by Theophile Mande & Friso Vos de Wael


TWIGA partners together in Ghana for the TWIGA days
TWIGA partners together in Ghana!

The first week of the TWIGA days consisted of meetings, workshops, and conferences. The first day (Monday) consisted of updates from all the TWIGA partners about the progress made in the previous period. All updates about the projects that have been completed and are still in the developing stage and problems that have occurred have been included.

The Tuesday consisted mostly of workshops. Here, the TWIGA partners split up into three groups; biosphere; hydrosphere and atmosphere. In these workgroups, the partners discussed various new services that could be developed. They made a feasibility and cost analysis and then chose one of the possible services to discuss further.

Develop business models for TWIGA services.
TU Delft students chair a meeting to develop business models for TWIGA services. 

The resulting services which were derived from this workshop are:

  1. Improved insurance for farmers with weather data
  2. Advice for potatoes and cocoa spray
  3. Solar power generation
  4. Early warning system for flooding

The students will focus their internship on the development of these business models for these services in the upcoming months. 

On Wednesday the group participated in a user needs assessment workshop with local farmer-& agribusiness representatives. For this workshop, the team split up again and gave advice about how a user needs can be identified with the Business Model Development method. This workshop was held to identify the farmer’s needs and the agribusinesses needs, with these needs, the corresponding services that TWIGA could deliver were identified. The user needs assessment revealed that services are required, but that facilitating these services is very expensive and might not provide the desired result that the farmers would want. Also, the needs of farmers and agribusinesses match quite well, both would benefit from a lot of services. Interesting was that the users mentioned that they need education and capacity building in farm management knowledge. For example, it is greatly beneficial if a user knows when and how much fertilizers or pesticides needs to be applied. This need can go hand-in-hand with the weather services that TWIGA provides. Since the leaching of fertilizers or pesticides correlates with the weather.

Visiting farmers, weather stations and flooded areas in and around Kumasi

On Thursday the TWIGA partners stretched their legs on a field trip. The weather station was right on the campus of KNUST (Kumasi University). Continuing to the next weather station at a palm oil plantation where a soil moisture sensors were included. 

After these visits were made, all the partners visited a flood site, a bridge over a river in the neighborhood of Aboabo, were many floods take place on a yearly basis. In this situation, the risks and health hazards of floods could also be identified. The floods and blocked drains in the neighborhood made many houses be filled with water on the bottom, like in the picture below. This has made numerous houses uninhabitable and the stagnating water in the area becomes a breeding spot for mosquitos and vector-borne diseases. 

Flooding affected a local mosque in Kumasi.

Lastly,  the group visited a farm, to inspect it for possible placement of a soil moisture sensor (a cable covering the entire field). This sensor can measure which parts of the farmland are in need of moisture of fertilizers, aiding in the efficiency of farming. A great additional benefit to the TWIGA services.

All in all, the TWIGA days illustrated the great need there is for weather services. Looking forward to the next partner meeting!

**Written by Roxana Vafa, Rosalie Middendorp & Anne Schermerhorn. Students of the Delft University of Technology. 


The TWIGA Kumasi Hardware Hackathon

**Written by Nick van de Giesen
TAHMO has been working with the TWIGA project since the start of 2018. An important output of the TWIGA project will be new geo-services (twenty!) based on the application of innovative sensors. In order to speed up the development of these services, a Hackathon was organized from 19 through 23 November 2018 at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi Ghana. The objective was to build complete value chains, from observation to internet storage to service delivery. We aimed high on purpose to see what can and cannot be done in such a short time. The results are very promising! Continue reading on the TWIGA website…

TWIGA hackathon participants showing their environmental weather innovations.
TWIGA Hackathon participants showing their innovations!

photos and text: Matti Barthel (ETH Zurich, Department of Environmental Systems Science)

CBO and TAHMO cooperate in the DRC

Three years ago, we – researchers of the Congo Biogeochemistry Observatory (CBO) – got in contact with TAHMO to install weather stations at our field research sites in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Generally, basic weather data is an important pillar to conduct environmental research, which in our case mainly focuses on the biogeochemical cycling of carbon and nitrogen within agricultural and forest systems of the Congo Basin. Until recently, the DRC was a white spot on the TAHMO network map and had, in general, a poor weather station infrastructure.

Now, the data obtained from the TAHMO network provides unique, continuous, high-resolution data necessary to help unravel the complex processes of carbon and nitrogen cycling that in turn are important players in global climate through the release and uptake of greenhouse gases. Over the course of the last three years, we successfully installed nine stations, which now provide continuous data in quasi-real-time. For us as researchers, this is an invaluable source of information that is readily at hand, especially when we talk about remote locations like the DRC. These stations were installed in strategically located regions in an effort to provide a representative and accurate estimate of climatic variables for our field sites.

Weather data for soil preservation

For example, five of the stations were installed around Lake Kivu in Eastern Congo, a region world famous for the gorilla populations roaming the opulent and steep volcanic mountains of Virunga and Kahuzi-Biéga National Parks. Of these five stations, three are maintained by the Observatoire Volcanologique de Goma (North Kivu) and two by the Université Officielle de Bukavu (South Kivu). One of the major environmental problems of the Kivu region is increased soil erosion due to human activities such as mining and agriculture. One of the most important drivers of soil erosion is precipitation, which – falling on the steep terrain with fragile soils – results in enormous amounts of sediment exported causing flash floods and a massive amount of soil loss. These land uses become particularly deleterious because of the combination of steep terrain and high levels of precipitation common in the region. The data of the stations close to Goma are therefore used by Montfort Balgawa Rukeza, a Ph.D. student at the Catholic University of Louvain, to understand the seasonal export dynamics of suspended fine sediment through rivers as a result of the increased soil erosion driven by rainfall and land use choices.

Further, two more stations were installed in the heart of the DRC, in the Tshopo province, of which one is installed at the Campus of the Université de Kisangani and the second at the former Belgian research station at Yangambi (see picture). This part of the Congo Basin probably reflects best what people imagine when thinking of the Congo: endless green, dense, impenetrable forests, interrupted only by the mighty Congo River and its tributaries.

Figure 1: Impressions from the Yangambi meteorological office: Scheme of inside the hallway with the title ‘Bilan d’energie et bilan d’eau d’une couverture vegetale’ [energy balance and water balance of a vegetation cover]; old magazine on meteorology found in the local library; Campbell-Stokes sunshine recorder; local street (from left to right).

The weather station installed in Yangambi, on the banks of the Congo River, is to me, personally, the most valuable of all currently running stations in the DRC. This has two reasons. First, the European Commission, together with the University of Ghent, is currently establishing a micrometeorological greenhouse gas flux tower in the dense and lush tropical forest surrounding Yangambi (Congoflux) to monitor energy and greenhouse gas exchange between the forest and the atmosphere. The data generated by the TAHMO Yangambi weather station will deliver important preliminary data mainly related to wind speed and direction, which can provide critical information for the setup of the tower (flux footprint).

 

The second reason is related to the static analog archives of past weather conditions recorded manually at Yangambi. This dataset dates back to 1905 and was maintained and assembled by the Institut National pour l’Etude Agronomique du Congo Belge (INEAC) and later continued by the Institut National des Etudes et de Recherches Agronomiques (INERA). Emmanuel Kasongo Yakusu, who is a lecturer at the Université de Kisangani and also a PhD student at the University of Ghent and the Musée Royal de L’Afrique Centrale in Belgium, went through the massive task of digitizing this huge dataset, which covers now several decades into the past. Part of his work involves analyzing the recent climate change at the local (Congolese intact forest, Yangambi) and regional scale (Congo Basin). His overarching thesis objective concerns forest management of the Congo Basin facing climate change, particularly investigating the impact on the economically valuable tree genus Entandrophragma. Since the meteorological office at Yangambi is still measuring and continuing this dataset it is now very exciting to compare their analog measurement methods, which are still the same as 100 years ago, with the recordings of our TAHMO weather station. Comparing the TAHMO station with analog measurements.

Figure 2: Two weeks of daily minimum (left panel) and maximum (right panel) temperatures recorded at Yangambi meteorological office measured with TAHMO (black) and conventional analog devices (colored).

Figure 2 shows an evaluation over two weeks of temperature data recorded with the TAHMO weather station compared to the temperature taken with the analog methods of Yangambi meteorological office. This comparison nicely illustrates how a combination of different datasets can verify and validate the traditional measurement techniques employed at Yangambi to better explore the wealth of information hidden in this inherited treasure.

A cooperation to monitor meteorological data across the DRC.

The last two stations of our growing network were recently installed in the very south of the DRC close to the city of Lubumbashi, within a landscape dominated by enormous termite mounds scattered in between the vast Miombo woodlands. In sum, the building relationship between TAHMO and CBO has greatly improved our ability to continuously monitor meteorological data across the DRC by covering various climatic zones including montane rainforests in the east, dense lowland forests in central Congo and woodland savannah in the south. Further, it provides the lecturers at the local universities with an excellent tool for their classes in fields like hydrology, meteorology, pedology or ecology just to name a few.


One of the challenges of the Ghana Meteorological Agency (GMet) is the availability of real-time weather data for its day to day activities such as daily weather monitoring and forecasting, climate monitoring etc. It takes about a month for data from the manual observatories to get to the central collation point for digitization, quality control and archiving. GMet believes the deployment of automatic weather stations (AWS) is the best way to resolve this challenge. Following the partnership with the Trans-African Hydro-Meteorological Observatory (TAHMO), the GMet has inched a step closer to achieving these results and improving its service delivery.
The TAHMO AWS network has complimented the GMet station network thereby improving the spatial resolution of the GMet data. This has helped GMet in generating gridded datasets of temperature and rainfall by merging the gauge data with satellite rainfall estimates and reanalyses data. In terms of data quality, the data have shown consistent correlation with the GMet observatories within close proximity of the TAHMO stations and for that reason is used as reference stations for quality controlling the observed data.
It has also made available real-time data for weather monitoring and forecasting thereby improving the operational work of the forecast office.
Overall the TAHMO project has been of great benefit to both GMet and Ghana as a whole and this has reinforced the decision by GMet to roll out its AWS program.

**Written by Kwame Duah.


The TAHMO Initiative regards training and education of both teachers and students of schools with a TAHMO station as a very crucial ingredient of the Initiative. This is done through the school2school program which is created to serve this important purpose of educating, training and support with teaching and learning materials.

Students and Geography teachers of St. Paul’s SHS, Denu in the Volta Region of Ghana had an interactive session to understand TAHMO’s school2school program. The students joined Mr. Kwame Anhwere – the TAHMO regional coordinator – to carry out maintenance work and understand all the ins and outs of the weather station. This attracted students from other departments which found the session quite interesting.

During the sessions, the main discussion was about how the environment supports life and the importance to take good care of it. It was about the activities and responsibilities that individuals and governments have to minimize their impact on the environment. The last part of the discussion centered on the various sensors on the station, how they work, the parameters being measured and how data could be accessed and visualized for lesson plans.

The students had the opportunity to see the real-time measurements when the station (logger) was connected to the computer as well as near real-time measurements online via the school2school.net platform. Some of them had the opportunity to check the data online.

The school expressed their appreciation and were happy to be among the selected schools in the country to host a TAHMO station.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

**Written by Kwame Duah**


Turkana County is one of the counties in the former Rift valley Province of Kenya. This is the second largest County in Kenya and it borders Uganda to the west and South Sudan and Ethiopia to the North.
15th January 2018 marked the start of a long journey of weather data collection by installing the first TAHMO Automatic Weather Station in the County, the first station was installed in Talent High School. TAHMO has up to now installed three Automatic weather stations in the County, in Loima Boys High School, Talent High School, and Moi High School Kalokol.

On 5th July 2018, we received a ZL6 data Logger in Kenya. I decided to test the logger in areas with poor cellular network connectivity. My top priorities were Isiolo Meteorological offices where we have a TAHMO weather station and Loima boys High School which is one of the sites in Turkana County. The first test was carried out at Isiolo Meteorological offices on 14th August 2018. The test was successful and the logger had a good network reception.

The station at Loima Boys High School had problems uploading data due to weak cellular network. On 21st August 2018, I started a five-day journey to Turkana County, my aim was to bring the station at loima Boys High School online again, test the ZL6 Logger and update the ATMOS firmware for all the three stations in the county. I was very much committed to bringing the station at Loima online without moving it to a different location, I carried other local Sim-cards to the sites which I would use just in case the Vodafone Sim-Card failed. In my email conversation with Safaricom (network provider), they had suggested we move the station to Lorughum where they have a 3G booster. So if all came to worse and the station failed completely, we would move the station to Turkan Girls High School which is near Lorghum 21 km away from Loima Boys High School. This means we would treat the weather data completely differently with that at Loima since these sites are far from each other.

Lodwar is the main town in the county, most people would come back to this town to spend their nights here after carrying out field activities in the remote villages. Loima Boys High School is located about 70km west of Lodwar town, this meant a 70 km drive on a large extensive semi-arid land. The best service you can do to yourself here is to take a lot of water. Sometimes we could drive for three hours before reaching Loima because roads are covered by sand and the driver had to carefully choose the routes to follow otherwise the car could sink it’s tyres into the sand.

The tricky part was crossing River Turkwel, here you have to get out of the car to reduce the weight of the car so that it doesn’t sink into the sand. At some point, we could push the car from behind to accelerate it so as to reduce the chances of it sinking. The best thing about crossing River Turkwel was that you meet several people who are also struggling to cross the river, you exchange ideas and some would tell you their mission in the county and their experience with the local communities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We met a young boy who offers guidance to people who have issues crossing the river, he says, “if you want to successfully cross the river, you drive parallel to the flow of the river, in case you notice where the sand is well compressed and firm enough, tilt the tyres slowly by slowly till you reach the other end.” This trick was successful for the four times we crossed the river.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The time we spend crossing the river gave me some ideas on how to deal with the local community. I was well prepared with everything I needed to bring the station at Loima Boys High School online, but the experience at the river gave me a very different view of things, that how you deal with the community can help you find a solution quickly or make it completely impossible. So we decided to stop at Turkana girls (where we would bring the station to if it completely failed to broadcast at Loima) to do some tests. Here we meet the gateman, I explained to him that we intend to move the station here because at Loima the network is very weak, I also told him that the site at Loima is built on a higher ground within the school compound, and we really would wish to keep the station within Loima and not move it as far as Turkana girls. He listened to me carefully and he had this to say “If you really want to retain the station in Loima, you have to move it towards a lower ground within the compound, network in this region seems to be stable on the lower grounds than higher grounds.” I doubtingly agreed to this, so we drove to Loima, I removed the station from the middle pole and moved to the lower ground within the school compound, I carried out a communication test and it was successful.

I talked to the School principal and asked for permission to move the station to the lower ground about 100 meters from where it was as long it will not interfere with the School’s future infrastructural developments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He agreed and we moved the station, I placed the ZL6 Logger and the EM60G logger on one pole. I set the upload frequency for the ZL6 Logger to be four data uploads per hour and that for EM60G to be one data upload per hour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am happy that the advice from the community members helped me bring the station online. I am also happy that I successfully completed a trip that involved making right decisions very quickly and staying on top of everything

I hope that the existence of the TAHMO weather station in Loima boys High School will be an eye-opener to the local community in Turkana County and a great contribution to the knowledge about climate change and a better understanding of the evolution of adaptations to semi-arid and other extreme conditions. This would give a chance for the Linking of traditional Beliefs on Climate Change Phenomena to Scientific Facts for Better Adaptation Strategies.

**written by Victor Omoit


Call for Application

Hackathon for Environmental Sensors (Hardware) and IoT for Climate Services
Date: 19-23 November 2018 @ KNUST Kumasi Business Incubator, Kumasi

Background

TWIGA is a 4-year project (2019 – 2023) under EU Horizon2020 aimed to transform weather water data into value-added information services. It is made up of a consortium of 18 partners – 8 from Africa and 10 from Europe.

At the moment the products and services being considered some of which have been tested by TWIGA partners are in the Agriculture, Water, Energy, Disaster Response and Management and Insurance sectors. For these products and services to be successful on the Africa market, often they need to be bundled and may require public-private partnerships (Bellagio-African-PPP-for-Climate-services 2017). For Agriculture, the following products are being considered: agriculture knowledge and information systems, crop monitoring (health and yield), site evaluation for crops, crop selection and calendar, weather forecasting, fertilizer advice, Pest and disease management, sowing and planting advise, water use and irrigation advice, soil moisture assessment and modeling, soil nutrients assessment, salinity assessment, flood risk assessment, flood early warning system, drought risk assessment, drought monitoring, Extreme weather risk assessment, Extreme weather early warning, disaster monitoring and impact assessment, agricultural (index) insurance, market access assessment and market information,  climate change modeling and monitoring, pasture and water bodies identification and monitoring, forest and bushfire warning and monitoring, agricultural control and compliance monitoring (Noort, 2018).

Objectives of the Hackathon

To foster involvement by young scientists and entrepreneurs, TWIGA will organize five hackathons; three on development of geo-services at Strathmore (Kenya), TU Delft (Netherlands) and SAWS (South Africa), and two on sensor development at KNUST (Ghana) and TU Delft (Netherlands).

Because the hackathon will be partly funded by TWIGA, there has to be a realistic outlook towards a service. Therefore the objective of the hackathon in Kumasi will be to develop a viable product (environmental sensor and/or service) in 5 days in line with the TWIGA products and services outlined above.

Method

The SPRINT concept, more or less, which brings people in five days from concept to tested minimal viable product, will be used.

Requirements and Application Procedure

The call is open to only teams from Ghana. Similar hackathons will be organized in other parts of Africa later. The teams could be formed by individual persons, students, start-ups, companies, NGOs or government organizations. Teams should have expertise in software and hardware development. All teams need to be physically present during the 5-day Hackathon in Kumasi.

All interested teams should send their application (2 –page concept note, and the resume or CV of all proposed team members) on the environmental sensor(s) and/or IoT for climate service they intend to develop to info@twiga-h2020.eu with the words [TWIGA Hackathon in Kumasi] in the subject line of the email. The application should be submitted by 23.00hrs CET on 12 October 2018.

Start-ups that provided letters of support for the TWIGA project proposal are highly encouraged to apply as well as teams with women.

Prizes

5 Teams of not more than 3 people per team will be invited if they meet all the set requirements. There are prizes of  €1500, €1000, and €500 for number one, two and three.. These three finalists will be supported to take their ideas from conceptualization to full prototype ready to be tested on the market within 2 years.

The intellectual property rights of the winning prototypes developed during the course of the 5 days Hackathon will be shared between the developers and the TWIGA project.

Evaluation Criteria

At least one team member should have a University degree in the field of Engineering, Computer Science, Physics or related field with at least one (1) year experience with hardware/software development.  A gender-balanced team will be an advantage. The main evaluation criteria will be the innovation and technology readiness level of the proposed product.

Logistics for the Hackathon

Accommodation (full board) will be provided if needed. Tickets for public transport to and from the venue will be reimbursed against receipts. Each team member will be required to present a national Identification card (e.g. Driving License, Passport, and Voters (ID) and National Health Insurance Card or other forms of health Insurance.

Program for the 5-Day Hackathon

Monday 19
Morning: Arrival/registration and an introduction of Teams (5 teams, 3 people (max) per team); Overview concepts
Afternoon: Introduction and exercise LOOM

Tuesday 20
Morning: LOOM for specific applications, walkthrough, bottlenecks
Afternoon: Remix, improve the concept, sketch.

Wednesday 21
Decide on final design, rumble, and storyboard

Thursday 22
Build prototype

Friday 23
Test & learn
Award ceremony
Wrap-up, goodbye teams

For further information send an email to info@tahmo.org. Teams will be invited to the hackathon only after their proposal has been accepted and at least one member of the team interviewed via teleconference.

Sponsors for the Hackathon:

European Community’s Horizon 2020 Programme (2014-2020) under grant agreement n° 776691, Delft Global Initiative @ the Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands, Oregon State University, USA and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana.