Watch FCFA’s webinar: How can climate models be improved over Africa?

The webinar (30mins presentation & 20mins Q&A) was presented by Dr Rachel James, a Visiting Researcher at the Department of Oceanography, University of Cape Town; a Research Fellow for the University of Oxford; and a Researcher on both the IMPALA and UMFULA consortia for the FCFA programme. She has a doctorate from the University of Oxford, focusing on African climate change.

The webinar was held on 15th March, 2018, with a recording below.  View the slide presentation here.


Rachel  discussed a new paper from a team of scientists from Cameroon, Kenya, South Africa and the UK. The paper, published in BAMS (the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society), calls for collaboration between international climate modellers and African scientists to deliver a dramatic improvement in our understanding of climate models over Africa.

Climate model experiments are increasingly being used by planners and risk managers in Africa to try to prepare for a changing climate. However, for many parts of Africa, there has been limited work to evaluate climate models’ ability to capture key climate features. Furthermore, African climate systems are particularly tricky to represent in climate models. The paper highlights the importance of process-based model evaluation for Africa. By evaluating the processes that matter regionally, there is potential to inform model development, and ultimately improve models over Africa. This kind of work is also important to help understand the model output which is already available, and guide its use by decision makers.

The paper demonstrates examples of this kind of process-based model evaluation, including for Central, East, Southern and West Africa. In each region the analysis is guided by local expertise, led by scientists from the University of Yaounde I, University of Nairobi, and University of Cape Town. The authors highlight the potential to deliver a dramatic improvement in understanding of climate models over Africa by drawing on the wealth of local weather and climate expertise in African meteorological services, research institutes, and universities to evaluate climate models. They also propose the opportunity for establishing a model evaluation “hub” for Africa to support collaboration between scientists in Africa, and climate modelling centres.

The webinar unpacked the challenge of African model evaluation and introduced the work the FCFA IMPALA project is doing to turn an ‘African lens’ on climate models. It also raised the longer term challenge of delivering sustained improvement in climate representation and prediction over the continent, and invited discussion of a potential African model evaluation “hub”.

The full record of submitted Q&A can be found here.