Talking about the weather is such a ubiquitous part of life that it has gone beyond a clichéd way to pass the time; it’s practically a tradition. But in many countries, it’s also about exchanging crucial information. For farmers, for example, being able to adapt to changing weather conditions can mean the difference between a good or bad crop.
The UNDP’s Climate Information for Resilient Development in Africa (CIRDA) programme aims to help improve the speed, accuracy and accessibility of weather information products across eleven African countries. CIRDA will work in partnership with the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHS) to provide technical guidance, training and capacity building, resulting in unprecedented forecast accuracy.
But that only counts for half of the challenge. Once the NMHS have the ability to accurately forecast climate conditions, there is the issue of how to communicate this with consumers. Packaging and distributing meteorological and hydrological information products (complete with data and statistics) in a way that can be understood by anybody has been an historic issue.
Which is why CIRDA is launching the Climate Action Hackathon, a three-day event in Livingstone, Zambia. The workshop starts on the 15th March (to be followed by a virtual hackathon that will run all the way until June), with the goal of devising a simple and straightforward means of communicating vital weather information to members of the public in real time.
“That could mean a novel flash flood early warning system, or an innovative platform to reach end users in the private sector,” says Joost Hoedjes. “Or it could even be the translation of the routine forecast into understandable language; instead of telling people the chance of rain is 13 per cent, tell them to put on their flip-flops and sunglasses!”