Progress in April 2018

Project Management

Liz joined the first meeting of the SHEAR Studentship Cohort at Imperial College London on April 26th. There are some interesting PhD projects that are now underway that will be working on FATHUM-related topics, for example flood forecasting in Kenya, citizen science for early warning systems and visualisation of forecasts. There will be a SHEAR studentship conference in September which Early Career Scientists from across the 4 main SHEAR consortia will be invited.

Liz has also collated all of the abstracts for the Adaptation Futures session on Forecast-based Financing and sent them all to the organising committee. The session will last 1hr45 minutes. There will be a short (5 minute) introduction to FbF for those in the audience who are not familiar in it. Then the rest of the session will be split into two. The first half will showcase FbF case studies, the second half FbF thematic topics. There are 5/6 abstracts in each section, and so there will be 5/6 groups rotating around the room. You will therefore have 8 minutes with each group. I would suggest preparing a flexible presentation – be prepared to speak for up to 8 minutes if there are no questions, but ideally audience members will interject or ask questions and direct the flow of conversation. That way the audience members become an active part of your presentation and research, rather than it being a passive listening exercise.

Project management activities this month have also included arrangements for the meeting in South Africa in June. Joy’s efforts have been indispensable, thanks Joy! 

Work Package 1

Flood seasonality and ENSO/IOD teleconnections:

Andrea has been focusing on the changes of seasonality of flooding in Sub-Saharan Africa with ENSO and Indian Ocean Dipole. He has calculated some circular statistics based on the streamflow reanalysis data-set (GloFAS driven by Era-Interim/Land), in order to identify the flood timing for different ENSO/IOD conditions. These statistics have been mapped over Africa and show significant changes of seasonality in some regions of Eastern and Southern Africa.

Andrew led a joint FATHUM/ForPAC team Skype discussion (19 April):

Participants: Erin Coughlan de Perez, Arlindo Meque, Liz Stephens, and Andrea Ficchì, from FATHUM (WP1); Martin Todd, Dave MacLeod, Maurine Ambani, Mary Kilavi and Augustine Kiptum from ForPAC.

We have discussed about the seasonality analysis and the impact of ENSO/IOD on flooding likelihood changes (EGU presentation). Some of the valuable comments and suggestions received from the team concern:

  • The need for an uncertainty assessment of the reliability of forecasts of flooding with ENSO/IOD.
  • The possible inclusion of the Subtropical Indian Ocean Dipole in the analyses, because of its expected influence on rainfall in Southern Africa;
  • The interest of deeper investigations on particular case studies, such as the Shabelle River (Somalia). The results of flood likelihood changes with ENSO/IOD for this river are relevant for decision-making. Results, so far, highlight some distinct predictions for the region, contrasting some current Early-Action policies for El-Niño preparedness.

EGU presentation (11 April): Liz presented Andrea’s work at the European Geophysical Union conference, including recent results on the reliability of the statistical forecasts of flooding likelihood based on ENSO/IOD teleconnections. This part highlighted some interesting differences between the reliability of predictions based on either ENSO or IOD. The feedback from the talk was good, in particular there were requests to do the same analysis for drought hazard.

Work Package 2

For Uganda:
They are continuing with their desktop review, including a review of past flood events in Teso (from 2007) and review of sociodemographic info for Amuria and Katakwi districts. They are trying to set up an interview with their disaster risk contact person at OPM.

For South Africa:
Busy mostly with admin and logistics for the upcoming June meeting. Setting up and conducting interviews with key stakeholders in our field site – this process also critical for finalising the fieldtrip plan for June, and selecting at-risk communities (in the towns and farming communities) for household-level interviews. Ongoing desktop review of past flood events in the Langeberg and collecting reports/historical info on the case study area.

For Mozambique:

  • Evaluation of flood triggers;
  • Desktop review: data collection on past floods in Chibuto region (initiated);
  • Study of the contribution of Limpopo Basin human formations to the flood warning system
  • Desktop review: DRM/EWS legislation (initiated).

Work Package 3

Currently Sara is transcribing the recordings from both Dialogue Platforms (Berlin, October 2017 & Nairobi, March 2018), analysing interviews and refining the interview protocol. This preliminary research data forms the basis for the observational analysis document that Sara is currently also drafting. In order to analyse the conferences and interviews, Sara is developing a coding system that enables her to distil dominant themes and understand plural perceptions.

Furthermore, Sara has been reading and summarizing international reports and reviews of existing early action/ and cash transfer projects and literature on the use of probabilistic forecasts in decision-making.

Sara is also actively approaching potential interviewees to follow up on some of the talks that I had during the Dialogue Platform in Nairobi. In particular Sara is keen to interview more people on the periphery of the FbF community, please let her know any suggestions you might have.

Work Package 4

Tobias is due to begin at Reading University at the beginning of June, and will be attending the meeting in South Africa.

Topics for discussion on May 3rd

  • Question on progress: does anybody have any comments or questions about the progress updates?
  • Does everyone understand the format and what they need to prepare for the Adaptation Futures FbF session?
  • Question on June meeting: what needs to be discussed in Stellenbosch in June?

Joy comments: I think that the first half of the first day should be work package presentations and updates on their progress – so everyone knows what everyone else is doing. The morning of Day 2 should involve each work package breaking into separate groups to plan/discuss their work and plans for the upcoming months (while we are fresh and full of ideas!). Those are two ‘sessions’ that I think are critical.

  • Open question: What are the challenges of setting up FbF for transboundary rivers?

April 5th Progress Update

Author: Liz Stephens

Thanks to everyone who joined our monthly progress call, the minutes are below. Please add your thoughts on the discussion point in the comments section at the bottom of this post.

Work Package 1 report (Liz on behalf of Hannah)

  • Andrea has been continuing his work on the influence of ENSO / Indian Ocean Dipole on flood likelihood in sub-saharan Africa.
  • He made a presentation to the Tropical Research Group in the Department of Meteorology at Reading and gained some valuable feedback. Liz will be presenting this work for Andrea at the European Geophysical Conference in Vienna next week.
  • Arlindo Meque, based in Mozambique, has been researching tropical cyclone impacts and the precipitation and wind thresholds which lead to different impacts.

Andrea Ficchi presenting his research to the University of Reading Tropical Meteorology group

Work Package 2 report (Joy)

  • Joy is in the process of finalising the research tools which have been co-produced among all the case study teams, final versions will be shared soon. From this the teams will be working on desktop reviews and begin the fieldwork.
  • The WP2 team had the opportunity to meet up at the Dialogue Platform in Nairobi.
  • Joy is currently working on a paper on the methodological approach used in FATHUM.

Rui da Maia leading a discussion at the Africa FbF Dialogue Platform on the challenge of understanding human behaviour for FbF in Mozambique

Work Package 3 report (Sara)

  • Sara has been refining the interview protocol and will be preparing a report based on her initial observations, identifying key themes and looking at factors that inhibit / enable the use of uncertain forecasts.

Work Package 4 report (Emily W)

  • This work is about to start with Toby joining the University of Reading in June. Toby has been working with the Start Network on FbF-related research.
  • Toby introduced himself to the team. All of the WP4 team will be in Stellenbosch / Cape Town in June.

Other collaborations (Liz)

  • We welcome Arielle Tozier de la Poterie and Anne-Catherine Vanhove as collaborators with the FATHUM team. They are working on research related to FbF in Mozambique.

Report on FbF Activities (Erin)

  • A new DREF mechanism for early action will be launched in May in Geneva. Following the Africa FbF Dialogue Platform in Nairobi there will be similar Dialogue Platforms in Latin America and Asia in the coming months where FATHUM work will be featured.
  • FATHUM work will also be presented by the Climate Centre team at the Understanding Risk conference in Mexico City in May.

Communication Channels (Liz)

  • I’m keen for a shift from email to shared comments on the blog posts (obviously where appropriate).
  • Next month’s progress reporting will be done via the blog before the Skype call, giving more time for discussion during the call.
  • I also welcome contributions to the blog, however short, even just a photo of your activities!
  • Anything on the blog will be syndicated via Twitter (to our external audience) and via Slack (to our compatriots in other SHEAR projects).
  • There is a FATHUM shared OneDrive folder that hasn’t been well used, please upload relevant reports, publications, photos etc.

Annual meeting in Stellenbosch / Adaptation Futures

  • I have a final deadline for all information related to the Adaptation Futures session of April 20th.
  • Please could everyone register for the conference by end of the day on Monday. Reading will pick up the invoice for registration fees for those of you under a subcontract if registration has been carried out by then.
  • Joy has been managing accommodation and shuttle bookings for South Africa, please let Joy know if you think you are missing from these arrangements.

Discussion point:

  • What presentations / discussions / activities do you want to see at the annual meeting in Stellenbosch?

NEXT CALL: 2pm GMT+1, Thursday May 3rd

 

 

 

 

 

 

Africa FbF Dialogue Platform, Nairobi, March 2018

Author: Liz Stephens

Many members of the FATHUM team came together for the Africa Forecast-based Financing Dialogue Platform in Nairobi to hear the latest on FbF and related topics across Africa. The German Red Cross will no doubt be writing a full report of the session, but here is some ‘I like I wish I wonder’ feedback from the FATHUM team.

I like –

  • that the discussions were rich and interdisplinary – Harriet Lowalem, Makerere University
  • the diversity of the current Fbf pilot approaches and the genuine excitement building up among the field’s growing group of practitioners. – Paris Kasiz, WFP
  • learning how people around Africa are approaching FbF and seeing how the concept has evolved. – Arielle Tozier, German Red Cross Mozambique
  • the diversity of participants and high interest on FbF – Irene Amuron, RCCC
  • the diversity of ideas on how to set up effective systems and take action at scale! – Erin Coughlan de Perez
  • the paradigm shift to Impact based forecasting and not just forecasting for the sake of forecasting – Beauty Shamboko
  • the variety of topical themes discussed regarding forecast based financing and actions – Chris Garimoi Orach, Makerere University
  • finding out about all the FBF activities and research that is happening across the African continent – Joy Waddell, Stellenbosch University
  •  I like the thematic break-out sessions as they form a more intimate and fruitful platform to exchange ideas and challenges – Sara de Wit, Oxford University
  • I would like to see more participants being aware of the huge size of African river basins and the need to support them with basic forecasting infra-structure. For example, the Limpopo basin has a size of 40 million hectares, some 4 times the size of England and includes highlands in South Africa and lowlands at the Indian Ocean, Mozambique.  River flooding under these circumstances can have different genesis year by year.  If we understand well the hazards we will have more time to act and the FbF mechanism will be fulfilling the role of reducing suffering of affected populations. Massive rains in Mozambique have started in the year 2000, on February 3, caused by the cyclone Eline originating from Australia.The resulting massive flooding of the Limpopo river happened in fact much later, on February 26. We had 23 days of lead time to act but we didn’t act because we did not understand well the “hazard”, the link between Cyclone Eline and the Limpopo flooding. – Rui da Maia, UDM

    Erin Coughlan de Perez leading a session on forecast triggers. Photo: Liz Stephens

I wish –
  • all agencies and actors in the field talked more with each other, recognizing and taking advantage of the tremendous potential for complementarities and synergies in their work! – Paris Kasiz, WFP
  • there was better coodination among research initiatives pertaining to FbF (and I´m happy that the dialogue platform opened the lines of communication) – Arielle Tozier, German Red Cross Mozambique
  • that the topics were all inclusive rather than selecting a few topics to attend – Harriet Lowalem, Makerere University
  • we had given government representatives more centre stage to share practical examples on how FbF can be institutionalised within DRM government agency – Irene Amuron, RCCC
  • that was more government representation including at national and sub-national levels – Chris Garimoi Orach, Makerere University
  • Zambia will be able to have presentation on the progress made from the resolutions made at the Dialogue Platform – Beauty Shamboko
  • we had more information on forecast verification, to know which actions should go with which forecasts. – Erin Coughlan de Perez
  • that there was better collaboration and communication about FbF research across partners, organisations, and research projects.  – Joy Waddell, Stellenbosch University
  • I wish that there was more emphasis placed on the importance of community-level participation in the implementation of FbF – Sara de Wit, Oxford University

I wonder –

  • to what degree and timeframe will Fbf be scaled in whole countries and regions, fully integrated within national systems as well as humanitarian operations. – Paris Kasiz, WFP
  • whether lessons learned from fbf interventions shall necessarily apply in other local context during the scale up phase – Harriet Lowalem, Makerere University 
  • how best to use the research (and what research would be most valuable) to influence practice and build government support for early action – Arielle Tozier, German Red Cross Mozambique
  • what the future of FbF will be without donor funding – Irene Amuron, RCCC
  • about scale up of forecast based interventions – Chris Garimoi Orach, Makerere University
  • if there will be more time allocaed for the next Dialogue Platform – Beauty Shamboko
  • how the world might be different if we had open data. – Erin Coughlan de Perez
  • what impact or difference our FATHUM research will have on the scaling up of FbF in countries and the application of FbF across the world.  – Joy Waddell, Stellenbosch University
  • I wonder how local forecasting systems (or environmental knowledge) and scientific models can complement and strengthen each other – Sara de Wit, Oxford University

Liz Stephens presenting progress in FATHUM forecasting research. Photo: Becky Hemingway, Met Office

Progress Update

Author: Liz Stephens

Stellenbosch, March 2018 – to build excitement for the FATHUM project meeting in June

A few thank yous:

  • To everyone who has provided me with updates for the Researchfish reporting. This has now been submitted.
  • To everyone for sending me their abstracts for the Adaptation Futures FbF session in Cape Town
  • To Joy for taking on the significant task of managing the hotel and flight bookings for the Nairobi meeting next week, and our project meeting in June.

An update:

  • We have now made an offer to a candidate for the Work Package 4 post doc position. I believe that they will start in June so you will all have the opportunity to meet them at the project meeting.
  • We have two new PhD students at Reading who are working on SHEAR-related topics. Siobhan Dolan is looking at forecasting landslides, and Sazzad Hossain on forecasting floods in Bangladesh (he has already been linking with the FbF project there as part of his role at the Bangladesh Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre).
  • The SHEAR knowledge brokers have set up a ‘SLACK’ account to help with collaborative working. This is an online platform where you can join discussion groups on a number of topics. Please anticipate an invitation to this at some point soon. I would expect at least all of the early-career researchers to join up.
  • Following on from Beauty Shamboko attending the FATHUM Kick-off meeting in July 2017, we are now helping Zambia WARMA to use the Global Flood Awareness System for their monthly hydrological outlooks.

Coming up…

  • Liz (Reading), Sara (Oxford), Emily W (ODI), Joy (SU), Rui (UDM), Chris and Harriet (Makerere), as well as the Climate Centre team and Red Cross representatives will be together in Nairobi next week for the first Africa FbF Dialogue Platform meeting. You can follow the meeting on twitter @AfricaFbF18
  • To improve collaboration across the Work Packages I will be leading monthly progress calls at 2pm UK time on the first Thursday of every month, beginning Thursday April 5th.
    • At least one person from each organisation should join the call.
    • During these calls everyone will have an opportunity to report on their activities over the previous month, and their key plans for the next month.

Please could you add a short comment to this post to confirm you have read it!

A new DfID funded Forecast-based Action project led by Emily Wilkinson from the FATHUM team

Author: Emily Wilkinson, Overseas Development Institute

A range of large scale social protection and risk finance initiatives as well as promising innovations in forecast-based action (FbA) have emerged in recent years. This field of forecast-based early action is rapidly expanding, and consolidating the evidence, experience, and lessons from early efforts to develop forecast-based action and finance tools can help improve the impacts and effectiveness of future investments.

The Scoping and Design for Taking Forecast-Based Early Action to Scale project funded under the WISER programme will do just that. ODI and partners including the University of Sussex, the START Network, the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, and Tetra Tech, will work together to review and share existing forecasting and decision-making capabilities and links to finance for early action that can be triggered in a range of different contexts. The project team will identify opportunities for institutionalising early action through modifications to existing delivery systems, carefully designed in partnership with relevant stakeholders.

Three focal studies will be selected to reflect a variety of early action financing and delivery mechanisms. The goal of the focal studies will be to (a) uncover the political economy and other factors influencing the formalisation of FbA mechanisms; and (b) build interest and dialogue between key stakeholders (providers of forecasts and potential users of that information). Research will cover up to three types of ‘systems’: an international financing mechanism; a national delivery system (in a stable institutional context); and through non-state actors (in a fragile context). The completed Focal Studies report will set out the context and rationale for scaling up in each system and describe the process of co-production used to bring together the necessary stakeholders to develop a sound concept.

FATHUM Fieldtrip to Amuria District in Uganda, Friday 22nd to Sunday 24th September 2017

Author(s): Carinus de Kock (Stellenbosch University), Harriet Aber (Makerere University), and Joy Waddell (Stellenbosch University)

Map of the fieldtrip route from Kampala to Apeduru and Okoboi villages in north-eastern Uganda (via Google)

As part of the fieldtrip, we visited the villages of Apeduru (in Amuria County, Asamuk Sub-County, Ajaki Parish) and Okoboi (in Kapelebyong County, Kapelebyong Sub-County, Okoboi Parish). Both of these villages are located in the Amuria District, Teso Sub-Region, 330km and 370km northeast from the country capital of Kampala, respectively. These rural village communities are extremely remote and lack basic infrastructure such as tarred roads, electricity, stormwater and water services. The town of Soroti, where we stayed for the duration of the fieldtrip, is 42km from Apeduru village, and the closest town for many essential services. Although there is fairly good cellphone coverage, many people living in these areas do not possess cellphones.

Basic infrastructure in the trading centre in Amuria district

Electricity power lines and an MTN Mobile(phone) money kiosk (a common mode of money transfer in the district because of a lack of banks)

Flooding, drought and diseases were identified as the most prevalent hazards in the two areas visited, as well as many surrounding areas. Contributing factors include rain that flows from the higher lying areas to the north such as Kabong, Moroto, Kotido and Nakapiripit districts in the Karamoja sub-region, and even Kenya, to low-lying, flat, swampy areas. Furthermore, it was indicated that soils in the area have a low water permeability and therefore maintains a high water table. The photos below show the main road to Apeduru and the high water level from heavy rainfall in Okoboi parish, which fell 2-3 days before the fieldtrip and caused severe waterlogging. The following impacts from the waterlogging were reported: 781 gardens and 7 houses were destroyed, and 24 households were relocated to higher ground. During heavy rainfall periods such as the one experienced prior to this fieldtrip, communities in these areas are often at risk of being cut off, with no access to main towns, neighbouring villages, nor incoming relief.

Rising water alongside the main road to Apeduru village

Flooded main road to Apeduru village

During group discussions with residents from Apeduru and Okoboi villages, residents indicated that the Uganda Red Cross has provided significant assistance during floods, such as flood-resistant housing. Furthermore, through environmental education and awareness, such as discussion on the most suitable crops and planting seasons, the Uganda Red Cross has built capacity and increased people’s preparedness to disaster risk. Unfortunately, due to standing water and damp conditions caused by flooding, diseases such as malaria, pneumonia, and foot-and-mouth are still prevalent in these areas. Waterlogging is also a major hazard that impacts negatively on local farming and agriculture. Residents from Okoboi village indicated that gender inequality in still prevalent, with men and women having specific roles and there being no gender cooperation; women, for example, are often excluded from critical decision-making processes.

Group discussion in Apeduru village

Group discussion in Okoboi village

During the group discussions, the communities highlighted a number of needs during this waterlogging event: tarpaulins for drying crops since their compounds are waterlogged; water purifiers for water treatment; mosquito nets and mosquito residual spraying; adequate water points since current water points are shared between people and their cattle; access to seed of fast-maturing crops; and gumboots and saucepans. The photo below shows water collection at a communal borehole, which is often shared with neighbouring villages and causes conflict during the dry season.

Water collection point in Apeduru village

During the group discussions, the two communities noted that prior to Red Cross intervention, they had their own indigenous knowledge for coping with water logging. The interventions they carried out included erecting bed stands in cases of flooding, and using iron sheets as flood covers. Since the intervention of FbF, they now have access to safer shelter and have learned how to dig trenches before flooding. These communities also attributed the reduction of malaria cases and waterborne diseases to the FbF intervention. The Red Cross also carried out other interventions in these areas, including environmental conservation, adopting and using energy-saving stoves, and provisions of soap, jerry cans, water tables, and garden hand-hoes.

We want to thank the Red Cross officials, and the local communities and their leaders for giving us their time and for their willingness to discuss some of the issues that they face during flood events.

Forecast-based Financing in Nepal

Author(s): Liz Stephens (University of Reading)

An interesting comment piece from Madhab Uprety, Disaster Risk Reduction consultant, and Sumit Dugar, Research Associate at Practical Action Consulting South Asia on the recent floods in Nepal has been posted here.

It is no surprise that a similar situation has been encountered in Nepal as elsewhere in the world:

It is largely unclear among the humanitarian actors and government stakeholders about what levels of forecast probabilities and magnitude are worthy to react.

You may be interested in connecting with the Practical Action project team to compare and contrast how Forecast-based Financing is being implemented in Nepal compared to our own pilot projects in Uganda and Mozambique:

Practical Action together with support from the World Food Program have been advocating this approach in Nepal and the idea has already been put-forth across national Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) platforms for discussion. FbF is currently being piloted in six flood prone districts of West Nepal and there is an intention to upscale these initiatives across entire southern flood plains of Nepal. Forecast thresholds and triggers have been identified and Standard Operating Procedures (SoPs) that includes science informed anticipatory actions have been developed and integrated in the local disaster preparedness plans.

Sumit Dugar is part of the project team of the SHEAR LANDSLIDE-EVO project, and is keen to connect with the FATHUM team. We will shortly be advertising a PhD project to work alongside the FATHUM team, focussed on supporting Forecast-based Financing in Nepal. The student would link with Practical Action Nepal and the Nepal Department of Hydrology and Meteorology.

Introduction to South Africa case study

Author(s): Joy Waddell, Ailsa Holloway, Carinus de Kock (Stellenbosch University)

The FATHUM team in South Africa has selected the Langeberg Municipality in the Western Cape as the case study site for this research. South Africa’s Western Cape, which is home to over five million people, is known as “the Cape of Storms.” Due to the Langeberg Municipality’s extensive disaster history, steep topography, and remoteness of its rural communities, it was identified as a hotspot for high-impact weather events that increase the likelihood of destructive flash flooding. The Langeberg Municipality, which is one of five local municipalities within the Cape Winelands District of the Western Cape, is located about 180 km east of Cape Town.

Location of the Langeberg Municipality in the Western Cape, South Africa

The Langeberg Municipality has a population of 98,000 involved in a diverse economic base that includes mainly agriculture, forestry, and fisheries (15.3% of GDP, 23.1% of workforce in 2014), tourism, and manufacturing (17.5% of GDP in 2015). The Langeberg’s major towns (Montagu, Robertson, Ashton, and Bonnievale) are surrounded by complex mountain topography. The steep gradient of these mountains and the elongated and lobed shapes of the catchments in this area increase the likelihood of flooding, particularly flash flooding.

Mountainous terrain in the Langkloof, Langeberg Municipality

River’s proximity to the Cogmanskloof pass, near Montagu

From 2003 to 2014, the Langeberg Municipality experienced six disasters associated with severe weather events caused by cut-off low pressure weather systems. The resulting disasters were characterised by widespread flooding, with impacts reported across the Western Cape. During that time, the Langeberg reported total financial losses of around ZAR 23.6 million, with 6,424 people affected or requiring assistance.

Flooding in Aston, 2003

Number of people affected in the Langerberg Municipality from disasters associated with cut-off low systems

The town of Montagu, with its population of 15,176, is situated at the confluence of two major rivers. The Cogmanskloof pass through the Langeberg Mountains, near Montagu, is a major road that has flooded, cutting off the northern and southern parts of the Langeberg and causing logistical challenges, especially for response units such as emergency services, disaster management, police, and traffic services during a disaster.
Other contributing factors increasing local flood risk include:
• Changing land-use patterns, which increase surface run-off;
• Location of many towns and critical infrastructure along major rivers and in river valleys;
• Frequent wildfires linked to fire-adapted vegetation (e.g., fynbos, grasslands, Rynosterveld) and alien vegetation (e.g., pine forests), which also increase surface run-off;
• Increasing sediment accumulation (aggradation) in rivers, also linked to increased alien vegetation (e.g., reeds) in riparian zones.

Debris clogging a bridge leading into Montagu, 2015

Damage at Cogmanskloof pass, 2015

There is limited weather radar coverage in the Western Cape, not only because there are not enough instruments in place collecting the data, but the mountainous topography means that accurate inland flash-flood forecasting is blocked by the Langeberg mountain range, As shown in the Figure below, this leaves very little of the Western Cape covered by accurate weather radar, which severely restrains accurate forecasting and warning in the province. The implications were clearly highlighted during the 2011 and 2012 events, when weather warnings disseminated by the South African Weather Service did not specify areas such as the Langeberg Municipality. Heavy rainfall and flooding events in the Langeberg’s towns, such as Ashton, Montagu, and Robertson, claimed several lives, including that of an ambulance attendant. In both instances, preparedness mechanisms that should have been activated were not triggered, as flash flood warnings were not issued for the Langeberg Municipality.

Map of the Western Cape, highlighting the optimal weather radar coverage (green and white circles), compared with actual coverage (red shading) (Taken from Pharoah et al. 2016)

For more information on cut-off low weather systems in the Western Cape and their impact on the Langeberg Municipality, see: Pharoah et al. (2016). “Off the radar: Synthesis report. Severe weather events 2011-2014 and their impacts in the Western Cape Province, South Africa.”  http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PA00M95M.pdf

Should seasonal rainfall forecasts be used for flood preparedness?

The first paper from members of the FATHUM team has now been accepted for publication!

Coughlan de Perez, E.Stephens, E.Bischiniotis, K.van Aalst, M.van den Hurk, B.Mason, S.Nissan, H. and Pappenberger, F. (2017) Should seasonal rainfall forecasts be used for flood preparedness? Hydrology and Earth System Sciences. ISSN 1027-5606 (In Press)

https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2017-40

Abstract

In light of strong encouragement for disaster managers to use climate services for flood preparation, we question whether seasonal rainfall forecasts should indeed be used as indicators of the likelihood of flooding. Here, we investigate the primary drivers of flooding at the seasonal timescale across sub-Saharan Africa. Given the sparsity of hydrological observations, we input bias-corrected reanalysis rainfall into the Global Flood Awareness System to identify seasonal indicators of floodiness. Results demonstrate that in wet climates, even a perfect tercile forecast of seasonal total rainfall would provide little to no indication of the seasonal likelihood of flooding. The number of extreme events within a season shows the highest correlations with floodiness consistently across regions. Otherwise, results vary across climate regimes: floodiness in arid regions in Southern and Eastern Africa shows the strongest correlations with seasonal average soil moisture and seasonal total rainfall. Floodiness in wetter climates of West and Central Africa and Madagascar shows the strongest relationship with measures of the intensity of seasonal rainfall. Measures of rainfall patterns, such as the length of dry spells, are least related to seasonal floodiness across the continent. Ultimately, identifying the drivers of seasonal flooding can be used to improve forecast information for flood preparedness, and avoid misleading decision-makers.

Kick-off Meeting Report

The FATHUM Kick-Off meeting was held from July 3rd to July 5th 2017.

Monday 3rd July

Icebreaker activities and discussion: The FATHUM team had 1-on-1 speed-introductions to each other, trying to find the most interesting / novel thing they had in common. Then they were asked to ‘vote with their feet’, placing themselves in different parts of the room depending on their disciplinary background, applied or theoretical nature of research, and previous history of working with the Red Cross / Red Crescent Movement.

Quiz the Panel: what is Forecast-based Financing? Erin Coughlan de Perez spoke about the history of FbF and why the concept was developed. Irene Amuron spoke about her experience implementing FbF in Uganda. Liz Stephens discussed her view as a scientist advising on the first FbF pilot projects.

Where is Forecast-based Financing now? Erin was quizzed by the group on all the other FbF related activities, including the Dialogue Platform events and the FbF Manual – fbf.drk.de, to which FATHUM research will contribute.

Presentation from Liz Stephens: Introduction FATHUM

Interdisciplinarity Exercise: The team were invited to think about  what methods we could adopt  as a team to overcome the challenges of interdisciplinary working. We decided on 5 rules to promote interdisciplinary research within FATHUM, along with developing a Glossary of Terms to enable better communication and understanding across our disciplines.

Website exercise: the team were asked for their priorities for the FATHUM website.

FATHUM Advisory Board Meeting: in person & via skype

Tuesday 4th July

Presentation from Hannah ClokeWork Package 1 Overview Probabilistic Forecasts Game: Andrea Ficchi led small teams through a game to highlight the challenges of decision-making from probabilistic forecasts.

Discussion topic: what is needed from a forecast? Andrea Ficchi asked for different perspectives on the required spatial scale of forecasts.

Impact Activity:  Pablo Suarez asked the project team to imagine an important mentor in their life, and what they would tell them about the FATHUM project., then to imagine bumping into a fellow team member in 25 years time; what successes would they like to be reflecting on.

Presentation from Liz Stephens: Project & Impact Deliverables

Work Package 3 Activity: Sara de Wit led groups organised by discipline in a ‘mapping the conversation’ exercise, discussing “What makes a successful implementation of FbF”, and “What are the barriers to FbF being implemented?”

Open Event with other projects from the SHEAR programme and at the University of Reading

Wednesday 5th July

Presentation from Ailsa Holloway: Work Package 2 Overview .

Presentations from Ailsa, Chris and Benedita on the WP2 case studies in South Africa, Uganda and Mozambique. Followed by a fruitful discussion about these case studies.

Presentation from Emily Wilkinson: Work Package 4 Overview. Followed by small group discussions on the how, what and where of upscaling.

Meeting reflections: Erin asked the team for their ‘I like’, ‘I wish’, and ‘I wonder’ feedback on the kick-off meeting. Liz asked for the team to reflect on what they will plan to do ‘on the way home’, ‘in the next month’, and ‘by the next meeting’.

Key Future Activities

*31st August deadline for SHEAR studentship proposals*

*Methodology meeting in Kampala 22nd-26th September 2017*

*Website soon to go live at  www.reading.ac.uk/fathum*

*FbF Dialogue Platform meeting in Nairobi in December / January (to be confirmed)*

*Adaptation Futures conference in Cape Town / FATHUM Year 2 meeting in Stellenbosch from June 18th 2018*