A new initiative has been launched in Geneva to radically improve Africa's weather monitoring network. Its aim is to help people across the continent adapt to the impact of climate change. The Global Humanitarian Forum headed by former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization and leading mobile communications companies are behind the initiative dubbed "Weather Info for All."
"Global warming is causing an ever increasing number of extreme weather events that affect the word's poorest and most vulnerable communities. The change means that age-old knowledge passed from one generation to the next can no longer be relied upon to protect peoples lives and livelihoods," explained a video presentation.
And, that is where science and the ability to better forecast the weather become increasingly important.
"The initiative brings together the technical expertise and resources of private and public bodies to help people adapt to the effects of climate change," said Kofi Annan.
Former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan is President of the Global Humanitarian Forum, which is spearheading the "Weather Info for All" initiative. He says climate change is not a threat waiting to happen. He says climate change already is altering traditional weather and rainfall patterns and threatening the health, security and livelihoods of millions of people in Africa.
He says Africa is the continent that will be hit hardest by the impact of climate change. Yet, he notes Africa badly lacks the facilities to effectively monitor ground level weather data.
"As a first important step, we urgently need to scale up both the quantity and quality of information about weather patterns in Africa," he said. "This will enable farmers to make informed decisions in planning the seeding and harvesting of crops. It will also enable accurate warnings to be given about extreme and violent weather conditions."
The initiative involves a unique public-private partnership. Swedish telecom giant Ericsson will install weather stations at new and existing mobile network sites throughout Africa.
And, Zain, one of Africa's largest telecommunications companies, will provide band width to send raw data and disseminate forecasts and early warnings.
Both companies are in the process of installing 19 automatic weather stations in new wireless network sites in the Lake Victoria Region. And, in the last quarter of the year, hundreds of new installations will be made in East Africa.
The goal is to install up to 5,000 new observation stations across Africa over the coming years.
Members of the initiative say huge benefits in mitigating climate change will be achieved for a relatively small amount of money. They estimate the cost of installing 5,000 new weather stations is a relatively modest $30 million.