Friday, October 23, 2015

Weather stations for Africa could help achieve new global goals

By Nick van Giesen, Delft University of Technology, BRACED
World leaders agreed on Friday the U.N. global goals that will provide the blueprint for the world’s development up until 2030. These ambitions rightly include ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water for all, and achieving food security and improved nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture.
The new global development blueprint is one that is supported by Delft University of Technology and Oregon State University, and the ambitious project they are leading called the Trans-African Hydro-Meteorological Observatory (TAHMO), which seeks to install 20,000 automatic weather stations across sub-Sahelian Africa.
Recognising that global food production needs to be increased by some 30 percent to 80 percent to meet the demands of rising populations, and the problems of the continent's erratic weather, the scheme is pioneering a cost-effective network of hydro-meteorological measuring stations to provide better maps of water and weather in Africa.

Patrick Kasamu from Chikuni in the South of Zambia. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi
This scheme is genuinely ‘game-changing’ because the current African meteorological observation network is very limited. 
As a result, national governments and regional planners do not have the data to make proper decisions regarding investments in water resources infrastructure to boost food production.

TAHMO has already started installing hundreds of stations in Ghana, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nigeria.
The stations are entirely self-powered by a match-box sized solar panel, use GSM cell-phone to call in 5-minute readings each hour, reporting rainfall, solar radiation, temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, wind speed and direction, GPS location, lightning location and intensity, soil moisture, and depth to groundwater.
The stations have no moving parts: wind is measure via ultrasonic time-of-flight, and rainfall by counting drips emerging from the gauge.
The potential of the scheme is highlighted by the fact that TAHMO was selected from nearly 500 applications as one of eight winning teams in the Global Resilience Challenge organised by the Rockefeller Foundation, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).
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