State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School


A Model for Improving Climate Services in Africa

Ethiopia’s National Meteorology Agency has launched a new online climate service based on 30 years of rainfall and temperature data for the entire country, available at the click of a button. This is unprecedented in terms of scale and accessibility anywhere in Africa. In the latest issue of the World Meteorological Organization’s WMO Bulletin, scientists who worked on the project write that the Ethiopian experience is a template for providing customizable data for agriculture, water, health and other sectors across the continent.

Ethiopian farmers learn about drought insurance products created using climate and weather data. Michael Norton/IRI

Without readily available, reliable data, the ability for policy makers to make smart, well-informed decisions is hobbled, says Tufa Dinku, a scientist at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society and lead author on the paper.

“It used to be that in order to get data for a given place, you’d have to submit a written request to the meteorological agency and then pay according to how much you needed. The process would take at least three days. Now it takes three seconds.”

The online map rooms are the culmination of years of work by Dinku to combine satellite rainfall and temperature estimates with on-the-ground station data. The hybrid data sets allowed Dinku to generate historical data for the whole country, not just where rain and temperature stations happened to be. Given that most are near highways and urban areas, rural areas stand to benefit greatly from Dinku’s research.

The work was funded by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and in large part by, the philanthropic arm of the technology company, which has been interested in improving the prediction and prevention of infectious-disease outbreaks in East Africa.

Read the full story on the IRI web site.

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