7.2 Linking and Enhancing Severe Weather and Flash Flood Hazard End-to-End Early Warning Systems in Southern Africa

Tuesday, 8 January 2019: 12:00 AM
North 126BC (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Curt Barrett, U.S. Agency for International Development, Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, Westminster, MD; and S. A. Tokar, R. Jubach, and E. Poolman

The United States Agency for International Development Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) along with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the NOAA National Weather Service, and the Hydrologic Research Center have partnered to implement a project to link and enhance the operational Southern Africa Severe Weather Forecast Demonstration Project (SWFDP) and the Southern Africa Region Flash Flood Guidance (SARFFG) systems with the objective of leveraging those systems to provide improved service delivery of forecasts, warnings and information to the Disaster Risk Reduction agencies/organizations at the regional, national and local levels in Southern Africa. The project goal was to improve accuracy, lead time, communications and dissemination of early warnings of extreme hydrometeorological hazards to reduce the loss of lives and livelihoods and to protect property in the region.

Both the SWFDP and the SARFFG are regional-based systems that have been designed to provide forecasters at the National Meteorological and Hydrologic Services (NMHS) the necessary data and information to provide timely and effective warnings of severe hydrometeorological events, including conditions for rainfall that could lead to flash floods. The SARFFG System provides data and information to forecasters to develop flash flood warnings and SWFDP provides specialized Numerical Weather Prediction guidance products and analyses to help NMHS forecasters produce severe weather forecasts and warnings. The South African Weather Service (SAWS) plays an integral role in the project as SAWS is the designated Regional Center for both the SWFDP and SARFFG systems.

Products and information from both systems aid NMHSs in developing hazard related guidance products for timely and more accurate warnings. These types of regional systems are important in many developing, and particularly least developed countries, where limited budgets and infrastructure hampers adequate service delivery. Linking and enhancing the systems supports end-to-end early warning system programs by encompassing both detection and prediction and dissemination and communication of risk based-warnings to authorities, public safety organizations, and the population at risk as well as many other users such as the agricultural and energy sectors.

A particular emphasis of this project was placed on “reaching the last mile”, making sure warnings developed applying both systems are timely and in a format that can be easily understood and acted upon by the affected population and users to achieve maximum value in effective disaster response. Improved linkage between NMHS warning products and services to national and community disaster response activities is the principal goal for integrating these two successful forecast and warning systems. This was done by a coordinated effort to bring in disaster managers at national and local levels with meteorologists and hydrologists to define new products and protocols to be followed by forecasters and responders.

The project involved more than the linkage of the two systems and defining new products. It also resulted in development of country roadmaps/implementation plans by the NMHS to improve delivery of hydrometeorological warning services in general by identifying weaknesses in the end-to-end chain such as data network deficiencies and forecaster training. Concept of Operations documents for each country in the region were also developed by each NMHS to optimize the integration of the new technology and capacity building into the existing operational structure. Also in some countries the warning process is linked to social networks. In Malawi for example, the application WhatsApp is used to confirm severe weather information. Also an emerging component of this project is to apply elements of the Weather Ready Nation. In South Africa the warnings prepared through the integrated SARFFG and SWFDP processes were combined through an Impact-based Severe Weather Warning System to issue impact based warnings to disaster managers. The aim is to expand this service to the public advising them in plain language about potential adverse impacts from the expected severe weather.

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