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Strong, strategic, sustainable

Weather and Climate Science for Service Partnership (WCSSP) South Africa

John Faragher, Head of International Development, describes how a partnership between the Met Office and the South African Weather Service is turning science into practical products and services to help protect lives and livelihoods.

The Weather and Climate Science for Service Partnership (WCSSP) South Africa is a strategic collaboration between the Met Office and the South African Weather Service (SAWS). It is an integral part of the Met Office's portfolio of work within the Newton Fund - part of the UK Government's official development assistance (ODA). The aims of the Newton Fund and WCSSP South Africa are to develop science and innovation partnerships that promote the economic development and welfare of collaborating countries.

This partnership builds on the existing relationship between Met Office and SAWS founded on weather forecasting using the Met Office Unified Model (MetUM). SAWS is the first national meteorological service on the African continent to join a global group of operational and academic centres working together to further develop the MetUM.

Key areas of focus for WCSSP South Africa include developing applied weather and climate services, improving high-resolution weather forecasting capabilities, enhancing training, and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) through impacts-based weather forecasting.

Increasing resolution

As part of the work, SAWS intends to upgrade and improve the quality of its weather forecasting by implementing high-resolution numerical weather prediction (NWP) models. Crucially this will enable more detailed and regionally accurate short-range weather forecasts, improving guidance to help protect lives and property. It also supports further NWP model improvements in South Africa and the UK, as the improvements are incorporated into the MetUM.

Sharing knowledge and experience

Another facet of the partnership has involved SAWS scientists visiting the Met Office to carry out verification and model evaluation alongside Met Office scientists. On their return to South Africa, the SAWS scientists have shared their knowledge of model verification techniques to other SAWS staff to promote an increased capability in local verification activities, leading to improvements in the quality and accuracy of weather guidance provided to government, businesses and communities within South Africa.

Exchanges have also improved the Met Office's understanding of NWP model performance over tropical and southern hemisphere regions.

The WCSSP enables SAWS to enhance its regional responsibility within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region by providing weather warnings at a higher resolution as well as enabling the SAWS Regional Training Centre to provide courses that are relevant to the region.

Training trainers

As regional centres of education on weather and climate science, SAWS and the Met Office have important responsibilities to train the weather forecasters of the future. 'Train the Trainer' exchanges have captured successes at both training centres, and facilitated learning from different methodologies and practical applications.

Dr Nhlonipho Nhlabatsi, Senior Manager: Science at SAWS, comments on how the WCSSP South Africa is laying the groundwork for long-term collaboration around weather science and service development, strengthening links between the UK and South Africa:

"This bilateral provides a springboard for the development of sector specific products (Agriculture, Health, Energy & Hydrology) for the betterment of the social and economic challenges that arise from weather and climate related events in the region. Clear demonstrations of the positive socio-economic impact SAWS can make in monetary terms will help to measure its worth, something that we hope this partnership will further develop."

In future the partnership is keen to expand and draw on the breadth of UK expertise and capability to underpin services for protection, prosperity and well-being. The Met Office will soon announce funding opportunities for the UK research community.