A coordinated campaign to improve early warning systems and increase resilience to extreme weather is being rolled out in the Lake Victoria region, the largest freshwater body in Africa and the biggest inland fishery in the world.
WMO provides the umbrella for the HIGH impact Weather Lake System project, known as HIGHWAY, which brings together partners including the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) of Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and UK and the US National Center for Atmospheric Research. It is managed by the WMO and funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID).
The Project Steering Committee of the HIGHWAY project met in Geneva from 22-24 January to report on progress as well as focus on the preparation for the field campaign to start this spring around Lake Victoria. The field campaign involves the collection and enhancement of meteorological observations, which are integrated into a early warning service using new and advanced technologies.
Lake Victoria currently lacks effective early warning systems to protect those who depend on it. Thousands of fishermen and small boat operators die on the lake each year, affecting 40 000 dependents and compounding the poverty cycle. Locals get caught in deadly storms either because there is no weather warning, they do not receive the warning message, or the message is not taken seriously because it is presented in an unclear way.
The NMHSs of the countries bordering the Lake (Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania) forecast for their own sectors of the lake. A key driver for the HIGHWAY project is therefore to coordinate early warning services for the Lake and its basin, with potentially one centralised operational centre utilising all available information and data from the whole basin.
The HIGHWAY project thus supports the objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals, by increasing resilience and food security and helping to combat poverty in fishing communities.
HIGHWAY aims to coordinate efforts with other projects in the region, such as WMO’s Severe Weather Forecasting Demonstration Project, and the SWIFT project, which aims to develop the physical understanding of weather systems over Africa and to actively contribute to improving the forecasting of high impact weather events such as urban flooding or prolonged droughts.
The first African SWIFT forecasting testbed was hosted by the Kenyan Meteorological Department from 24-29 January. During this week the SWIFT testbed provided support to the HyVic pilot flight campaign over Lake Victoria.
HIGHWAY is part of a wider World Weather Research Programme 10-year research project called HIWeather, which seeks to develop the science required for improved early warning systems that will reduce the toll in lives, livelihoods, health and wealth. In order to increase resilience, research is required for better monitoring and prediction of weather and related hazards, but also in human impacts and in effective communication of information to those most vulnerable. The scope of the project thus integrates work across many physical and social science disciplines.