US: NOAA-funded programme developed a climate information system, Rainwatch. It aims to address need of West African farmers. After a severe drought in 2009 caused many to face acute hunger, in 2010 the area experienced its wettest year since 1964.
Rainwatch is a prototype GIS that monitors monsoon rainfall and tracks season rainfall attributes. This information is crucial because sub-Saharan Africa depends more strongly and directly on rainfall than any other region on Earth, yet the area has the fewest rainfall monitoring stations and significant delays that occur between data collection and its availability for users.
Rainwatch automates and streamlines key aspects of rainfall data management, processing and visualisation. A major appeal is its simplicity – all interactive interfaces, symbols and names used are unpretentious and self explanatory. In addition, the system can be used by Africans without any outside assistance such as satellite information.
The need for a better system was the motivation for Rainwatch. The system was conceived and developed under the leadership of climate researchers Aondover Tarhule, chairman of the University of Oklahoma (OU) Department of Geography, and Peter J. Lamb, director of the NOAA Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies (CIMMS) at OU. They co-authored a paper outlining the programme with former OU graduate student Zakari Saley-Bana published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.
The program was made possible because of long-term interactions funded primarily by the NOAA National Weather Service International Activities Office Voluntary Cooperation Program (VCP). “During the past decade, NOAA funded about USD 75,000 and additional support came from the African Centre of Meteorological Applications for Development and CIMMS which allowed us to build relationships, learn of the need, and develop a solution,” Lamb said.