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 strengthen the resilience of South Africa and the UK to weather and climate variability and change.

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 an equitable collaboration between the UK and a range of institutes in South Africa including:
-    South African Weather Service (SAWS)
-    Applied Centre for Climate and Earth System Science 
-    Council for Scientific and Industrial Research
-    Agricultural Research Council
-    Global Change Institute at the University of Witswatersrand

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?

Climate change is an area of growing concern for South Africa. In the coming decades many regions in South Africa are expected to become hotter and drier, particularly in the western region. South Africa may also experience more extreme weather, such as droughts and floods. Working collaboratively to address the challenges presented by extreme weather and climate will help safeguard lives and livelihoods across southern Africa. The findings of the research 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 by digitising large collections of historical observations. The improved dataset will help scientists study climate extremes and long-term trends and to understand if weather and climate extremes, such as tropical storms and floods, are becoming more likely due to climate change.

Improving model performance 

Through international collaboration the project is improving the performance of the Met Office’s Unified Model, which is used for both weather forecasts and climate change projections. This includes implementing the use of convective-scale models in South Africa which can provide more accurate predictions of localised events such as drought and thunderstorms. 

Impact-based forecasting

The project is working on implementing an impact-based warning system in South Africa that inform people about what the impacts of the weather may be. Future project workshops will help ensure warnings are reaching the most vulnerable in society. By working closely with disaster managers and communities, warning messages are being specifically tailored to help users understand the warnings.

Climate projections and impacts

Using climate models, the project is studying how climate change may affect extreme events such as heatwaves, drought and floods. The work will assess the impacts of climate change on key sectors in South Africa such as water resources, urban and human settlements, energy, food security and human health. This information will help to inform decision makers around climate risk at the local, regional and national scale. 

Science for services

Science outputs from WCSSP South Africa are being translated into products and services to assist governments, businesses and communities in decision-making around weather and climate resilience and adaptation. Through tackling challenges in multiple sectors including water, energy, health and food security, the climate services from WCSSP South Africa will help inform disaster risk-reduction strategies within South Africa and the wider African continent. 

Research grants awarded

WCSSP South Africa research grants awarded in 2020:
Marine & Coastal Applications, University of Plymouth