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Output 2 - highlight results

Real-time climate prediction, monitoring and attribution

The CSRP is developing new, experimental, real-time climate products that enhance climate advice to users in Africa. Products have been designed to meet the needs expressed in the consultation and are currently being trialled with African regional organisations and National Meteorological Services.

Output 2

Highlight 1: Predictions of rainy season onset timing

Improved seasonal forecasts of the temporal distribution of rainfall through the season (e.g. timing of season onset and cessation and frequency of in-season dry spells) were highlighted as a priority during the consultation. Experimental seasonal forecasts of onset timing, have been developed and evaluated over past seasons. The performance is encouraging - in particular, good guidance for the early onset of the 2011 short rains season over the Greater Horn of Africa was achieved. The forecasts are currently being trialled by climate organisations in west, east and southern Africa at Regional Climate Outlook Forums (RCOFs). At these Forums experts from the region and from international prediction centres meet with users to review the recent climate and climate impacts on the region, to prepare a forecast for the coming season as well as to discuss appropriate responses to the forecast and to provide climate science capacity building. The CSRP has been supporting African RCOFs (see Output 5).

Key finding:

Dynamical seasonal forecast systems have encouraging capabilities to predict year-to-year variability in the onset of Africa's rainy seasons.

Key impact:

Reliable, skilful forecasts of onset are crucial to agricultural production and food security. If planting is done too early - seeds rot in the ground, if too late - the early growing season is missed. These dynamical forecasts of onset are the first of their kind and are additional tools to help African regional centres and National Meteorological Services improve their predictions of onset and thereby increase agricultural output and food security.

Highlight 2: Improved monthly-to-decadal prediction

The decadal (10 year) timescale is crucial for adaptation planners, however the science of decadal prediction is still developing and there is currently little information on this timescale available to users in Africa. The CSRP is accelerating the science of decadal prediction. A new monthly-to-decadal prediction system has been designed and developed that improves capabilities for multi-annual predictions over Africa. In the next months example multi-annual prediction products will be trialled with African stakeholders.

Key finding:

The new monthly-decadal system has improved our ability to predict multi-annual (next five years) rainfall and temperature averages over Africa. In its seasonal range, the new system is good at predicting El Niño/La Niña (important drivers of rainfall variability over Africa) and can predict variations in El Niño/La Niña at 18 months range with significant skill. Because of the close links between El Niño/La Niña and rainfall over many parts of Africa these predictions are a useful tool in assessing climate risks

Key impact:

Improved multi-annual/decadal predictions increase our capabilities to provide 'long-lead' early warning (e.g. for drought or successive drought) and adaptation advice.

Highlight 3: Observational monitoring products for Africa

In addition to developing climate predictions, new types of information are being developed to enhance our capability to monitor and assess current and past rainfall over the region. This information, based on datasets maintained by NOAA and NASA, will extend the climate information available to users in Africa by allowing, for example: regional monitoring of rainy season onset timing, and the length of the latest dry spell. The products are currently being trialled by regional climate organisations in Africa..

Key impact:

The new monitoring information is essential to verify seasonal forecasts of rainfall total and the new forecasts of onset timing

Further information Tailored climate prediction and monitoring products Tailored climate prediction and monitoring products (PDF, 997 kB)

Rainfall tercile categories 

Rainy season onset data

Highlight 4: Attribution of extreme climate events over Africa

There is a growing tendency to attribute observed climate extremes to man-made climate change whereas, in fact, other drivers such as natural climate variability and land use changes (e.g. deforestation) can also be important. The CSRP programme has developed a prototype near-real-time attribution system to estimate the accumulated effects of greenhouse gas emissions in increasing the risk of extreme climate events (e.g. drought and flood) over Africa.

Key finding:

The prototype has been used to analyse the severe drought in the Greater Horn of Africa 2010/11 - characterised by the failure of both the September-December 2010 short rains season and the March-May 2011 long rains season. First results indicate that man-made climate change has had little impact on rainfall in the short-rains season, but may have increased the risk of drier-than-average conditions in the long-rains seasons

Key impact:

Science-based information on the role of man-made climate change in driving extreme events over Africa is essential to inform adaptation decisions and will help avoid potentially expensive inappropriate adaptation.

Last Updated: 5 July 2012