The SARFFG-SWDFP Program: What it means to weather safety in Southern Africa

 Jim Purpura (front row, far right) with the participants in the South African Warning Project

Have you ever seen a TV Weathercaster point to a distant part of the globe, mention that a strong storm was approaching, and that there would be heavy rain and flooding? Maybe a few days later, you might hear in the news that sure enough, 50 or 100 (or more) people died in that same storm?

If you knew about the storm, why didn’t the people in its path have that information? Did they get a warning of a coming storm? Did the warning make it out to their remote villages? If they got the warning…did they know what to do to stay safe?
To deal with these questions, a new program is being developed by the United Nations (UN) through the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The project will merge two systems now being put in place across 9 nations in southern Africa: The Severe Weather Forecast Demonstration Project (SWFDP) and the Southern African Region Flash Flood Guidance (SARFFG) system.

A report just issued by the UN/WMO summarizes the meetings which took place in October and November.

It is available through this link…

http://www.wmo.int/pages/prog/hwrp/flood/ffgs/meetings/pretoria2015.php

I was part of the team that helped kick off this initial meeting. If successful, it will be an activity not ever achieved before: nations helping each other in the issuance of weather warnings, then having the various countries work to assure the warnings get to all who need it, and most importantly, those receiving the warnings know what to do with the information, to assure safety for themselves and their families.

As you can imagine this will be a tremendous challenge. Communications are very poor, but capacity is increasing. Social media is being investigated as a way to reach remote areas, and receive weather reports, as most Africans access social media through mobile devices vs. a desktop or laptop computer.

I’ll provide updates as we make progress in this effort.

Jim Purpura
Certified Consulting Meteorologist
WeatherExtreme, Ltd.