FATHUM 2019 annual meeting

This week colleagues from across the FATHUM team are meeting in Mozambique for our annual project meeting hosted by Universidade Técnica de Moçambique (UDM).

The meeting will include a mixture of presentations from local stakeholders including the Mozambique Water Management Agency, Red Cross, Mozambique Disasters Management Authority (INGC), Mozambique Meteorology Authority (INAM), updates on project progress and a field trip to help understanding flood risk in Mozambique first hand.

The programme is available here




FATHUM Summer Placements: Reflections on the value of international knowledge exchange

Written by Linda Speight (with input from Moses Tumusiime and Steven Chanda)

Over the summer we had a busy four weeks hosting five hydro-meteorologists from across Africa at the University of Reading to learn more about flood forecasting, forecast based financing and GloFAS. So before we move on to the next activity, now is a good time to reflect on the impact of the placements.

Placement visitors at EA Reading (photo credit: Hannah Cloke)

The placements were designed to support capacity building. The delegates were from national river and disaster management organisations who are being supported by the Red Cross Climate Centre to develop Forecast based financing (FbF) system for floods. Each country is taking a slightly different approach, as we found out through presentations and discussion during the placements, but the core components include the establishment of triggers based on weather forecast and in-depth risk analysis, automatic funds release and pre- defined early actions, all these within the framework of an Early Actions Protocol.

In practice the placements were much more than this and demonstrated an excellent framework for knowledge exchange and relationship building between everyone involved.

“The placement has been good we have benefited both socially, technically and academically. We had experience of interactions with people of different cultures and languages” Moses Tumusiime, Uganda National Meteorological Authority

“It’s been really interesting to think differently about approaches to flood forecasting. What would we do differently if we had to start again with limited data?” Stuart Hyslop, Environment Agency

Following the activities in the first week we visited the Environment Agency in Reading where Stuart Hyslop from the Environment Agency and Jenny Pope from the FFC gave an excellent overview of flood monitoring and forecasting in the UK, which was enjoyed by all.

Through the visit to “the Environmental Agency I came to understand how the flood forecast can be coupled with the impact and how the floods in entire region of England are being monitored and what early warning actions are implemented.” Steven Chanda, WARMA

Talking about flood monitoring at the Reading gauging station with Stuart Hyslop (EA)

We also talked about why we model floods and how to evaluate models and assess their suitability for operational need. Alongside thinking about what actions would be taken to prepare for floods and when and at what forecast probability. This prompted an interesting discussion about the different attitudes to risk in different countries and the differing appetite to be informed of potential floods at low probabilities.

Much of the final week though was spent with Andrea Ficchi and colleagues from ECMWF on developing expert user skills with GloFAS, and it was this aspect that the participants particularly engaged with.

“I came to Reading University in order to learn more about the framework of GloFAS model and how the data analysis can be done in a smartest way. With the completion of the training I would that I am now very much competent with GloFAS data analysis and understood the full operation of the model itself.” Steven Chanda, WARMA

Through analysis of the skill of GloFAS during recent events the participant’s final presentations demonstrated that the use of a large scale hydrological forecasting model such as GloFAS is not without challenges. Before GloFAS could be used to support FbF there is further work to be done on understanding the local hydrology, data quality and interactions with dams, abstraction points and deltas.

Douglas Mulangwa presenting on GloFas skill in Uganda

Everyone left already benefitting from the experience. For the African hydrometeorologists the immediate confidence and esteem boost from attending training in the UK was evident. Many joint plans were made for further analysis, research papers, MSc projects, PhD proposals and a follow up workshop. As well as benefitting the individuals and organisations, these activities also provide opportunity to ensure the research we do at Reading continues to benefit end users.

“Me as a person I have already started achieving from GLoFAS even before returning home …[We’ve benefited from] interaction with high level researchers who opened our eyes academically as now some of us are looking miles ahead than when we came to Reading.” Moses Tumusiime, Uganda National Meteorological Authority

Luckily it wasn’t all late nights and coding though, we also made time for social activities including a boat cruise on the River Thames to give everyone a chance to enjoy the recreational side of UK hydrology.

Boat trip on the Thames (photo credit: Rebecca Emerton)

Events like this take a lot of time to organise and run but the experience of learning from others with different cultures and experiences is invaluable especially when you have such an engaging and clever group of people working together for an extended period of time. So many thanks to everyone who made the placements such a great success!

 “The environment for learning was very conducive and I felt like home, all the organizing team were very helpful and patient with all of us even though we had very limited time. I would say thank you to all of you guys for this entire training.” Steven Chanda, WARMA 

Final certificates (photo credit: Siobhan Dolan)

Final certificates

FATHUM summer placements: Week 1

The FATHUM team at the University of Reading have been pleased to welcome the following visitors from Africa this week.

  • Steven Chanda from the Zambian Water Resources Department (WARMA)
  • Joaquim Cuna from the Technical University of Mozambique
  • Douglas Mulangwa from the Ugandan Ministry of Water
  • Sidiky Sangare from the Direction National de L’Hydraulic in Mali
  • Moses Tumusiime from the Uganda National Meteorological Authority

Enjoying the sunshine on the University of Reading campus

They are supported by the FATHUM project and the Red Cross Climate Centre and have come to Reading to learn more about Forecast based Financing and to build capacity to potentially integrate global forecasting capabilities from GloFAS into their national systems for FbF.

Visiting ECMWF

We have arranged a three week programme of activity and study. The first week has been very busy. Everyone has given an introductory presentation about flood hydrology, monitoring and forecasting in their countries. On Tuesday there was a research workshop with the wider flood forecasting in Africa community at the University of Reading to share expertise. On Wednesday we visited ECMWF to learn more about GloFAS and the Copernicus Management Service. Sara de Wit from the University of Oxford joined us on Thursday to talk about multi-stakeholder perspectives on Fbf and to play the engaging Red Cross Climate Centre “Pay for Predictions” game. Friday saw the visitors join the bi-weekly Water@Reading Journal group to discuss Erin Coughlan de Perez et al’s paper on action-based flood forecasting and start some practical training on data analysis using GloFAS and R.

As someone who has mainly worked on UK flood forecasting I have learnt a lot about the differences and similarities between local contexts. It is great to have the opportunity for a two way exchange of ideas and expertise. My top take aways are;

  • In Mali the rivers can be 1.6km wide (that’s double the length of UoR Whiteknights lake!)
  • There is very limited flood forecasting capacity in any of our visitors countries, where models do exist they are based on observed upstream levels. However there is a growing desire to develop such capabilities (hence why our visitors are here).
  • Nothing happens in Africa without the involvement of the governments. African countries are learning from each other’s experience and have learn that the government must be included from the beginning of any FbF project
  • People living in regions which have experienced recent floods (e.g. the Limpopo region in Mozambique) are more use to decisions being made by the government and hence flood disaster management is more developed in these regions.
  • Communicating forecasts is not just a challenge of understanding but of language with over 74 local languages spoken in Zambia and 200 in Mali

I’m sure the next two weeks will be equally fulfilling. Watch this space!

Discussing GloFAS with Ervin Zsoter and Shaun Harrigan at ECMWF

Steven Chanda presenting on Zambian hydrology

Siobhan Dolan helping Douglas and Moses with the GloFAS practical

Andrea Ficchi working with Sidiky