African nations’ capacity to significantly improve weather and climate forecasting through access to data from Europe’s next-generation meteorological satellites will be the key focus of a two-week online forum starting today. 

Covid travel restrictions have forced Europe’s meteorological satellite agency, EUMETSAT, to move its two-yearly Africa User Forum online, but also have made it possible for more participants to attend. 

“EUMETSAT’s Meteosat satellites have a continuous view of Africa, as well as Europe,” the organisation’s Director-General Phil Evans said.

“For more than 20 years, EUMETSAT has partnered with African policy and decision makers, weather and climate experts, the World Meteorological Organisation and the European Union to make our data more easily available in Africa and to build capacity for their best use. 

“The first of the more advanced Meteosat Third Generation satellites will be launched at the end of next year and will provide significantly more and better weather and climate information.  

“EUMETSAT is committed to making the data from this satellite system readily available to African weather and climate services, to providing training for forecasters and to participating in capacity building projects on the continent. 

“The use of this data will have significant, tangible benefits for the citizens of African nations, such as enabling earlier and more accurate warnings of severe weather events and deeper understanding of climate change, through to providing information about lightning activity, to help improve aviation safety.” 

A recently released World Meteorological Organisation study* found while 15% of weather, climate and water related disasters between 1970 and 2019 occurred in Africa, it suffered 35% of associated deaths and 1% of associated economic losses. 

For three days this week, technical working groups will be held for about 80 African weather forecasters and other users of EUMETSAT meteorological data. 

From next Wednesday, more than 150 participants are expected to attend the policy-focused plenary session, which will focus particularly on the Meteosat Third Generation system and its benefits.

(*) World Meteorological Organisation Atlas of Mortality and Economic Losses from Weather, Climate and Water Extremes 1970-2019.