What is it about?

In East Africa, too little or too much rain during the so-called short rains between October and December can have disastrous effects. Here we study the ability of numerical models to predict this rainy season, focusing on a widely used forecast model which extends several weeks into the future.

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Why is it important?

Failure of the short rains can lead to droughts impacting farmers and pastoralists, as there is little infrastructure for irrigation in the region. Similarly, too heavy rains can yield devastating floods. Advance knowledge of the timing and nature of the short rains is therefore crucial for planning and preparedness. We found that the sea surface temperatures in the nearby Indian Ocean influence the development of rainfall errors in the model. This information can be used to guide upfront forecast correction, but it also offers a diagnosis that can inform model improvements.

Perspectives

This was my first published study on our ability to forecast the short rains. I learned a lot about the nature of the rainy season and how it is influenced by ocean temperatures and the atmospheric circulation. Through my work with stakeholders in the region, I hope that our findings can help to enhance the quality and usefulness of rainfall forecasts in East Africa.

Dr Erik W Kolstad
NORCE Norwegian Research Centre

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Drivers of subseasonal forecast errors of the East African short rains, Geophysical Research Letters, June 2021, American Geophysical Union (AGU), DOI: 10.1029/2021gl093292.
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