Prof. Dr. Nick van de Giesen, co-director of TAHMO, and Dr. Eugenio Realini won both as special prize winners in the University Challenge and as regional winners for the Netherlands in the 2015 European Satellite Navigation Competition (ESNC). Each year, the ESNC seeks services, products, and business innovations that use satellite navigation in everyday life. The prize pool in ESNC 2015 was valued at approximately 1 million Euros, which included cash awards, business incubation, business coaching, patent consulting, technical support, access to testing facilities, prototype development, publicity, marketing support, and much more. All of the winners were recognized on stage at a festive Awards Ceremony that took place on 20 October in line with the Satellite Masters Conference in Berlin, Germany.
The winning idea: GNSS (global navigation satellite system) monitoring of precipitable water vapor over East Africa using low-cost receivers.
African weather is poorly monitored, especially for forecast purposes. At the same time, African societies are vulnerable to extreme weather events. By far the most critical weather variable is rainfall. To make good predictions about rainfall, it is important to know how much water vapor the atmosphere contains. More water in the atmosphere means more rainfall. Traditionally, this amount of water is measured by weather balloons, but these are expensive and there are only a few regular launches over Africa. GNSS signals travel slightly more slowly through moist air than through dry air. A GNSS receiver can measure the extra delay caused by moisture in the atmosphere, even though the differences are very small. Today, even low-cost GNSS receivers are so accurate that they can measure these delays. The plan is to add these low-cost GNSS receivers to the stations of the TAHMO (Trans-African Hydro-Meteorological Observatory) network around Lake Victoria. TAHMO is building a network of 20,000 robust and cost-efficient weather stations across Africa. By adding GNSS/Galileo receivers, it will be possible to greatly improve rainfall predictions.
For more information about the competition and TAHMO’s contribution, check out the ESNC website here.