A plan for 20,000 weather stations in Africa
Brice Montfraix
13 March 2018
The Trans-African HydroMeteorological Observatory (TAHMO) hopes to expand the continent’s weather-watching capacity, transforms the culture of African climate observations and the capacity for scientific discovery, by deploying weather stations at every 30km

How climate is changing in Africa? How diseases spread? What are the water needs and the water flows? How groundwater is recharged? What could be the immediate and long term effects of extreme weather/climatic events... 

Weather data are essential to answer many question connected to a better management of our resources. However, from global to local scale, whether you are scientist or not, gathering weather data in Africa is frequently an issue.  

According to the Future Climate for Africa report, a World Bank report, the continent’s climate is one of the world’s most understudied. The paucity of data from synoptic weather stations "inevitably results in poorer-quality numerical guidance and forecasts in those regions". Calibration of the sensors used in surface observations is very important, they explain, but in practice few are calibrated to internationally accepted standards.  

The purpose of TAHMO is to fill this gap with its network of 20,000 weather stations. 

They teamed up with US-German company Meter Group to develop a weather station that measures rainfall, temperature, solar radiation, pressure, and wind speed, among other variables. The stations have no moving parts, meaning they are less likely to break and require maintenance. Data are transmitted via a sim card in the data logger to a central database, and is available for free for scientists and local meteorological facilities, but companies wanting to access it need to pay. 

Even if there are pros and cons to keeping weather data secure, TAHMO has convinced 18 African countries to make their data freely available. Through signed Memorandums of understanding, the not-for-profit organisation has set a public-private partnership model and operate the network within their jurisdiction. 

Is TAHMO the best model to follow or not? Only time will tell. For Julio Araujo, research coordinator for Future Climate For Africa, “Selling services to African countries… is an improvement over the status quo”. TAHMO is based on the idea of a service: for TAHMO’s data to benefit small-scale, poor farmers, businesses would need to know what they need and find it worthwhile to develop services for them.  

Indeed, need is huge for climate data, not only in the African Science Community. Free and easily accessible data is essential to get a better understanding of what's happening, especially for areas where conflict and poor governance mean it simply does not exist. And whereas Satellite and radar data help to get a picture of the distribution, you always need ground data....

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Freely adapted by BM from an article published on SciDev.net onn 06/03/18: