AOSC Departmental Seminar
February 12, 2015

Developing a Modernization Plan for the Uganda Department of Meteorology

Daniel Kirk-Davidoff
AOSC, University of Maryland

In 2012 under a contract with the Uganda Department of Meteorology funded by the United States Trade and Development Agency, the author and a team of consultants worked to assemble a modernization plan for Uganda's weather and climate enterprise. We witnessed the heroic ability of a small staff of devoted civil servants to maintain a continuous observational record and provide forecast services for Uganda despite a severe lack of funding and material. While the East African Community Meteorological Department had received strong investment in the late 1960 and early 1970's, supporting a staff of 300 within Uganda alone and maintaining a modern synoptic observation system, including radiosonde and weather radar, the breakup of the EAC and Uganda's turbulent history of war and disease in the later 1970s and 1980s lead to chronic underfunding, leading to progressive decay of the observing infrastructure and of staff numbers and training.

This underfunding of the weather enterprise has become a more and more obvious deficiency as other areas of the Ugandan economy have advanced in recent years. For example, in a country with very extensive cell-phone networks, it is shocking to see synoptic weather stations with only the most minimal ability to communicate with the central forecast office. However, the development of a new generation of low-cost observation and communication technologies over the last decade provides an opportunity for rapid improvements in the level and sophistication of meteorological services offered to the Ugandan people. The present interest of the international donor community in climate change early warning and adaptation presents an opportunity to dramatically improve the state of knowledge of the Uganda climate and its variability, and to improve the accuracy and specificity of weather and climate forecasting from short-term watches and warnings to seasonal agricultural forecasts.

This presentation will review the current state of the Uganda observational network and of weather data and prediction services to the aviation and agricultural sectors and to the general population, and then describe a proposed modernized structure, that builds on recent efforts by the WMO, GIZ and the Uganda Department of Meteorology to develop cell-phone mediated forecasting and volunteer observation services, and results in a rigorously maintained observation system, an up-to-date bias-adjusted numerical weather prediction capacity, and a comprehensive and fine-grained delivery of weather and forecasts that meets the needs of Uganda's citizens.