Regional climate forum meets to determine rainfall forecast

By Admire Ndhlovu

SADC climate experts are meeting in Gaborone, Botswana, to develop the rainfall forecast for the next cropping season of October 2017 to March 2018.

The 21st annual Southern Africa Climate Outlook Forum (SARCOF-21) will provide the outlook for the upcoming season and also review the previous one, which was accurately predicted in 2016. Most parts of the region received a high amount of rain, characterised as “normal to above normal” rainfall.

The increased soil moisture and improved crop productivity and yields brought relief to the region after two successive years of debilitating droughts.

To develop a forecast for the coming season, climate scientists from the SADC national meteorological and hydrological services and the SADC Climate Services Centre use statistical and climate prediction models and expert interpretation to determine the amount of rainfall expected.

They consider the oceanic and atmospheric factors that influence climate over the SADC region.

The outlooks are then presented in overlapping three-month periods, that is, October-December, November-January, December-February and January-March.

The forecast is relevant to seasonal (overlapping three-monthly) timescales and applies to relatively large areas. It may not fully account for local or month-to-month variations.

Users are often advised to contact their respective meteorological and hydrological services departments for interpretation of the outlook, and for additional guidance and updates.

Seasonal forecasts are critical in development of effective drought and flood warning systems, as well as maximizing opportunities for the implementation of response strategies aimed at enhancing the safety of life and property and reducing avoidable flood damage.

Taking adequate measures to prevent, reduce and respond to disasters is critical in southern Africa, where hazards such as floods, droughts and cyclones continue to threaten livelihoods and socio-economic development.

The forum comes at a time when SADC has established a Climate Data Processing Centre to provide timely early warning information such as flood and drought potential prediction, and onset of the rainy season, as well as climate advisories and information.

SADC plans to establish a fund to support regional efforts to rapidly respond to natural disasters and other emergencies, and this should be operational by the end of 2019.

SADC has also approved the SADC Disaster Preparedness and Response Strategy 2016-2030 to strengthen preparedness, response mechanisms, and recovery from disasters by 2030.

SARCOF-21 is being held from 23-25 August in Gaborone, Botswana, and is organised by the SADC Climate Services Centre and the Botswana Meteorological Services Department.

The theme is “Minimising negative impacts of hydro-meteorological hazards on socio-economic development through climate early warning information in southern Africa”.

It was preceded by a 9-day Climate Experts Capacity Building Workshop of SADC National Meteorological/Hydrological Services for purposes of generating the 2017/18 seasonal climate forecast which will be issued by SARCOF-21. – Sardc.net

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