Multi-Hazard Early Warning System (MHEWS), a tool for Effective Ocean Prediction and Services

Multi-Hazard Early Warning System (MHEWS), a tool for Effective Ocean Prediction and Services

By Agnes Kijazi, Director General of the Tanzania Meteorological Authority (TMA), Permanent Representative of the United Republic Tanzania to the WMO and the Third Vice-President of WMO; Wilbert Muruke, Manager, International Cooperation, TMA; Mohamed Ngwali, Director, TMA-Zanzibar Office; Wilberforce Kikwasi, Head of Marine Meteorological Services Office, TMA; and Mathew Ndaki, Meteorologist, TMA

Area of tropical cyclone formation over SWIO in the southern hemisphere (adopted from Australian Bureau of Meteorology Area of tropical cyclone formation over SWIO in the southern hemisphere (adopted from Australian Bureau of Meteorology (
Tropical Cyclone KennethTropical Cyclone Kenneth approaching Mozambique at peak intensity on 25 April 2019 (NASA)

With its long and open coastline of over 30 000 km, Africa is vulnerable to natural hazards originating from the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Mediterranean Sea to the North, and Red Sea and Indian Ocean to the East. The risks include tropical cyclones, coastal inundation (including from tsunamis), strong winds and rising sea levels due to climate change. The United Republic of Tanzania is on the South Western Indian Ocean (SWIO), a region vulnerable to tropical cyclones.

The Tanzania Meteorological Authority (TMA) has a Multi-Hazard Early Warning System (MHEWS) with Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) that activate when a weather warning is issued on land or at sea. The SOP takes onboard all key actors in the National Early Warning System (NEWS), composed of the Disaster Management Office (DMO) in the Prime Minister’s Office as the overall coordinator of disaster management in the country, TMA, the Media and the stakeholder communities – that is ocean users when the hazard is at sea or threatens coasts.

TMA is responsible for issuing weather-related warnings for both land and sea. The information is passed on to all stakeholders through various channels, including TMA website, newspapers, television, radios and social media. When a hazard leads to a disaster, TMA communicates the warning to DMO. DMO decisions depend on MHEWS information provided. The aim is to facilitate effective communication and appropriate action in timely manner.

Tropical Cyclone Kenneth


Severe Tropical Cyclone Kenneth made a landfall over Northeastern parts of Mozambique.

The development of Tropical Cyclone Kenneth north of Madagascar was tracked by satellite and TMA’s Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP) system from 20 April 2019. On 21 April, TMA issued early warning information to the public on the development of the depression. TMA received updated alerts from the Tropical Cyclone Regional Specialized Meteorological Centre (TC RSMC) Meteo-France La-Reunion. When the increasingly strong cyclone started moving toward the coast of Tanzania and Mozambique, TMA communicated the MHEWS information to the National Disaster Management Office (DMO). On 25 April, Kenneth reached its peak with a central pressure of 934 hectopascals (hPa) and wind speed of 230 kilometres per hour (km/h) with gusts to 305 km/h – the most severe and damaging tropical cyclone ever to hit the region. On that day, it made landfall over north east of Mozambique, influencing the weather systems in Tanzania, especially over the southern coast. The cyclone dissipated thereafter.

As the cyclone intensified and approached the coast, TMA continued to provide warnings, conducting frequent press conferences as per the SOPs, while the DMO coordinated disaster responders, providing them with evacuation sites and other facilities. On 26 April, the Director General of TMA and the Director of National Disaster Management Office jointly issued a cancellation of the state of emergency through a press conference.

MHEWS and SOPs were effective in predicting, monitoring, communicating and coordinating the response to the tropical cyclone. Everyone played their role, including the Media who updated the public continuously with information from TMA. Thus, communities were evacuated to safe places in a timely manner.



Ocean prediction and services in Africa, and specifically in Tanzania, face several major challenges:

  • The inadequacy of the observation and monitoring infrastructure (e.g. automatic weather stations along the cost and water buoys)
  • Limited human capacity in marine observation and forecasting
  • Limited computational capacity and technology in data processing, packaging and dissemination; and 
  • Limited awareness by the communities.

Conclusion and recommendations

The MHEWS SOPs are an effective tool in connecting ocean prediction and services to users and emergency responders. They are most effective, however, when they are customized to individual stakeholders, to ensure each to take the appropriate actions when at risk. Activities have to be developed for individual SOPs for diverse stakeholders.

Institutional capacity building is of paramount important in African NMHSs to ensure effective early warning for marine hazards, which scientists predict will intensify due to climate change.

International cooperation needs to be enhanced to ensure sustainability and support the capacity of NMHSs to deliver multi-hazard early warning for effective management of marine related disasters ranging from cyclone induced coastal inundation to tsunamis.

Dr. Agnes Kijazi, Director General, Tanzania Meteorological Authority (TMA)Dr. Agnes Kijazi, Director General, Tanzania Meteorological Authority (TMA) and Third Vice-President of WMO, with Col. Jimmy Matamwe, Director, Disaster Management Office (DMO)-Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), and Mr Bashiri Taratibu, Assistant Director, DMO, jointly issuing a warning cancellation to the public on 26th April 2019.