Weather Warning Inequity: Lack of Data Collection Stations Imperils Vulnerable People

Article by Chelsea Harvey: “Devastating floods and landslides triggered by extreme downpours killed hundreds of people in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo in May, when some areas saw more than 7 inches of rain in a day.

Climate change is intensifying rainstorms throughout much of the world, yet scientists haven’t been able to show that the event was influenced by warming.

That’s because they don’t have enough data to investigate it.

Weather stations are sparse across Africa, making it hard for researchers to collect daily information on rainfall and other weather variables. The data that does exist often isn’t publicly available.

“The main issue in some countries in Africa is funding,” said Izidine Pinto, a senior researcher on weather and climate at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute. “The meteorological offices don’t have enough funding.”

There’s often too little money to build or maintain weather stations, and strapped-for-cash governments often choose to sell the data they do collect rather than make it free to researchers.

That’s a growing problem as the planet warms and extreme weather worsens. Reliable forecasts are needed for early warning systems that direct people to take shelter or evacuate before disasters strike. And long-term climate data is necessary for scientists to build computer models that help make predictions about the future.

The science consortium World Weather Attribution is the latest research group to run into problems. It investigates the links between climate change and individual extreme weather events all over the globe. In the last few months alone, the organization has demonstrated the influence of global warming on extreme heat in South Asia and the Mediterranean, floods in Italy, and drought in eastern Africa.

Most of its research finds that climate change is making weather events more likely to occur or more intense.

The group recently attempted to investigate the influence of climate change on the floods in Rwanda and Congo. But the study was quickly mired in challenges.

The team was able to acquire some weather station data, mainly in Rwanda, Joyce Kimutai, a research associate at Imperial College London and a co-author of the study, said at a press briefing announcing the findings Thursday. But only a few stations provided sufficient data, making it impossible to define the event or to be certain that climate model simulations were accurate…(More)”.