Overview and strategy
Climate variability and change have huge impacts on food security, water availability, human health and social and economic infrastructures. This is particularly relevant in Africa where people are especially vulnerable to hazardous weather and climate change.
Substantial sustainable poverty reduction can be achieved in Africa through improved predictions of climate variability and change. Among other things, this needs improved understanding and modelling of the African climate. A new African Climate Science Research Partnership (CSRP) between the Department for International Development (DFID) of the UK Government and the Met Office Hadley Centre is working, in consultation with African stakeholders, to advance the scientific understanding and bring new science into use.
Background, challenges and strategy
With climate change, referring to historical data is becoming a less reliable way of estimating the risk of climate extremes. Seasonal forecasts now provide the best basis to predict climate risk out to six months ahead and they can take into account both climate variability and change. Seasonal forecasting systems can also form the basis for early warning systems to enable better planning of relief activities. Improvements to the understanding and modelling of climate over Africa can be incorporated into seasonal forecasting systems and improve the usefulness of these forecasts for Africa.
On longer, decadal time scales, climate change and variability signals are typically of the same magnitude. A starting point in adaptation planning is to build resilience to current climate variability, while recognising that current climate conditions will substantially change in future. Decadal prediction systems enable both current variability and future climate change to be systematically accounted for.
There is a growing tendency to attribute all climate related local and regional changes to man made increases in greenhouse gases, whereas other reasons such as natural climate variability and land use changes, for example deforestation, can be of more importance. Developing near real-time systems that can attribute the causes of observed changes is a high priority to avoid incorrect and expensive adaptation measures.
Information about the future climate is needed on a scale that can be used directly by in-country stakeholders. This requires downscaling of global climate information to the local level. The products currently available, such as seasonal forecasting products, are of limited use because they do not address key stakeholder requirements. Therefore, it is vital to establish the priority variables and regions of interest for long range (monthly-to-decadal) forecast information, through discussions with relevant projects and institutions operating in Africa.
So that the most useful information can flow between decision-makers and the scientific community in Africa, CSRP activities are committed to focusing the research and enhancing the professional development of African scientists. Therefore, CSRP is running training workshops to help develop and disseminate new products based on CSRP research. In addition, African graduate students will be awarded study fellowships to research African climate issues as a way of strengthening the pool of in-country climate science researchers.
The CSRP approach is summarised in the diagram, which is available for download in the CSRP flyer, below.