Participants of the first ICTP-Rwanda Joint School on Subseasonal to Seasonal Weather and Climate Prediction

Workshop Addresses Climate Change

03 May 2019

Variations in climate can have significant impacts in Africa, impacts in such diverging spheres as health, agriculture, and energy. An ICTP workshop going on this week in Kigali, Rwanda focuses on the latest techniques for predicting and modeling seasonal climate patterns for the weeks and months ahead. Scientists from across the African continent gathered at the recently established ICTP partner institute, the East African Institute for Fundamental Research (ICTP-EAIFR) for the workshop.

“ICTP-EAIFR is honoured to be hosting its first activity on climate, one of the most challenging issues of our times,” said ICTP-EAIFR Director Omololu Akin-Ojo. Two staff scientists from ICTP’s Earth System Physics section, Fred Kucharski and Adrian Tompkins, organized the workshop, in addition to presenting on seasonal climate prediction during the workshop. Other topics included the theory of tropical climate predictability, introducing state-of-the-art seasonal forecast prediction and analysis techniques.

The workshop covers both theoretical and applied topics, with hands-on activities using the latest tools available on the Copernicus climate data store hosted at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts. The workshop is focused on seasonal forecasting for specific regions, increasing the utility of the climate models for local governments and organizations seeking to prepare for an increasingly changing climate.

“There is an ever-increasing array of high quality climate information that is openly available, including both observations and forecasts,” said Tompkins. "But the online interfaces and manipulating large multidimensional datasets can be daunting, and this workshop can help young scientists familiarize themselves with these tools.”

The workshop spent time focusing on techniques for easily accessing, downloading, and manipulating climate data for specific local regions. Assessing that data was another key facet of the workshop; participants studied how to evaluate the potential predictability of precipitation in a region, and how to calculate the impact of large-scale global climate patterns on local surface temperature and precipitation.

The workshop’s participants originate from both Rwanda and across Africa, including scientists from Benin, Cameroon, Nigeria, Congo and Ghana. “The school contributes to ICTP's long standing commitment to building climate capacity on the continent,” said Kucharski. ICTP has previously organized and sponsored events on climate modeling in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, Niger, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Senegal over the past years and hopes to be involved in many more.

The specific skills being developed are not the only benefit the workshop has for the young climate scientists. The week is a prime opportunity for networking, laying the groundwork for future communication and collaboration. “The workshop helps to build a sustainable future for Africa,” Akin-Ojo said. “Participants now have new knowledge—and a new network of colleagues—to help their countries adapt to a rapidly changing climate.”