Phones boost African climate data

Gaps in weather and climate data across Africa may be filled by a partnership between humanitarian groups and mobile telephone companies, the BBC reported. The project seeks to mount 5,000 automatic weather stations on phone masts across the continent, which will gather data on rainfall, wind and other factors for national weather agencies.

The programme – Weather Info for All – is to be formally launched by the Global Humanitarian Forum at this week’s Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction meeting in Geneva. The humanitarian organisation is led by former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan.

Annan said the phone-mast project could help save lives of people on “the frontlines of climate change”. He noted: “The world’s poorest are also the world’s most vulnerable when it comes to the impact of climate change, and the least equipped to deal with its consequences. Today you find cell-phone towers in almost every part of Africa. We have never been able to establish weather monitoring on that scale, until now.”

According to Carl-Henric Svanberg, chief executive the telecommunications company Ericsson: “This initiative presents a unique opportunity to simultaneously help mitigate the impact of climate change for those most affected and to strengthen weather networks and systems across the continent.”

In the project’s pilot phase so far, 19 stations have been set up around Lake Victoria in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Presently, Africa has fewer than 200 weather stations that meet World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) standards.

See full story