WCSSP South Africa

What is the Weather and Climate Science for Service Partnership South Africa?

The Weather and Climate Science for Service Partnership South Africa (WCSSP South Africa) project is a scientific collaboration that aims to build and strengthen equitable partnerships amongst the UK and South African weather and climate science and services communities, to inform actions and policy that reduces risk, safeguards lives and livelihoods, and promotes resilience, economic development, and social welfare in a changing climate. The project achieves this through enabling collaborations that advance innovative science and services development, across weather, seasonal, and long-term climate change timescales.

The project provides grants to support researchers from the UK climate science community in their work with South African research institutes. WCSSP South Africa is part of our Weather and Climate Science for Service Partnership (WCSSP) programme.

Who is involved in the project?

The project is a partnership between the Met Office, research organisations in the UK, and a range of institutes in South Africa:
-    South African Weather Service (SAWS)
-    Alliance for Collaboration on Climate & Earth System Science (ACCESS)
-    Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)
-    Agricultural Research Council (ARC)
-    Global Change Institute (GCI) at the University of the Witwatersrand

UK research institutes can find out about how to get involved in the WCSSP programme on our fund management page.

Strengthening research collaboration

The project builds on an existing partnership between the Met Office and SAWS which was established around the use of the Met Office Unified Model for weather forecasting activities. SAWS is the first national meteorological service on the African continent to join the Unified Model Partnership, a global scientific collaboration working on a range of modelling and science issues relevant to weather and climate prediction. 

Why is this research important?

Extreme weather and climate change are of great concern for South Africa. In the coming decades all regions of South Africa are expected to become hotter, sea-levels are rising, and changing rainfall patterns are expected, with drier conditions projected for the southwest region. South Africa is also experiencing more extreme weather, leading to damaging floods, heatwaves and droughts. Working collaboratively to address the challenges presented by extreme weather, climate variability, and climate change, will help safeguard lives and livelihoods across the country and wider southern Africa region. The findings of the research, and methods developed to advance different scientific frontiers, will also support weather and climate science and services in the UK and around the world. 

Lightning storm over Newcastle, South Africa

Lightning storm over Newcastle, South Africa

Current research areas

Monitoring and attribution

To understand how our climate is changing we need a clear view of the past through climate observations. WCSSP South Africa is expanding the observational climate record through data rescue and digitisation of large collections of historical observations. These improved datasets will help scientists to study long-term trends and better evaluate the performance of models across timescales. The project is also aligning with ongoing work by South African partners to support innovation in extreme event attribution, to better understand how weather and climate extremes, such as tropical storms and floods, are being affected by a changing climate.

Model evaluation and development across timescales 

Through collaboration the project is developing, delivering, and evaluating new regional modelling capability and simulations across weather and climate timescales. This includes advancing the use of convective-permitting km-scale model simulations using the Met Office’s Unified Model to enhance operational numerical weather prediction for the region, as well as assessing the performance of seasonal predictions, and generating new km-scale ensemble simulations of future climate for the African continent.

Projections, predictions, and impacts

The project is enhancing capacity and delivery of impact-based forecasts and severe weather warnings, and improving sector-based climate impact studies through combining innovative impacts science with integration of convection-permitting climate model output into climate projections. The project is supporting SAWS in implementing an impact-based warning system in South Africa, working closely with disaster managers and communities to issue warnings for different hazards. Using climate models, the project is also studying how climate change is affecting extreme events such as heatwaves, drought and floods, as well as providing new insight on sea-level rise. Science is being driven by the needs of different sectors, and investigation across multiple hazards (including compound and cascading hazards) with emphasis on heat, drought, and flooding.

Science for services

To strengthen South African and UK climate resilience, and to assist governments, businesses and communities in their decision-making, the project is translating underpinning science and understanding of decisions through co-development of weather and climate services, and transdisciplinary processes. Service co-development is being prioritised in focal sectors: marine and coastal, energy, agriculture, and health. The project is also supporting the implementation of the South African National Framework for Climate Services.

Annual Science Report

Over the course of 2023, the Weather and Climate Science for Service Partnership (WCSSP) South Africa project has made great progress in advancing collaborative weather and climate science and service development for the benefit of the UK and South Africa. The 2023 WCSSP South Africa Annual Science Report summarises key achievements in the past year, with examples chosen to highlight progress across underpinning science and service development.

Research grants awarded

  • Development of warnings for rip currents in Cape Town - Marine & Coastal Applications, University of Plymouth, 2020-2021
  • Stakeholder driven climate services for South Africa (STADCLIM-SA) - HR Wallingford, 2023