Institute for Meteorological Training and Research
Ninety percent of the data used to train English-speaking Africa forecasters is satellite data provided by EUMETSAT to the Institute for Meteorological Training and Research (IMTR) in Nairobi.
05, November 2020
IMTR is a branch of the Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) under the Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (MEWNR). It is responsible for training English-speaking meteorologists in Africa in forecasting for the public, aviation, agriculture, Indian Ocean transportation and forestry management, which includes fire monitoring.
The institute was established in 1964 and in 1965 was upgraded to the status of the World Meteorological Organization Regional Training Centre (WMO-RTC) for Anglophone Africa.
Joseph Kagenyi, Principal Meteorologist and Acting Assistant Director (Research and Development), at IMTR, explains why EUMETSAT satellite data is vital to their work.
"The main issue for forecasters in Africa is the lack of observation stations (data). There are large areas with no observations at all, so it is very difficult to know what is going on. Thanks to observations from space we can see what is happening, even in the areas with no other observation equipment."
He added: "We thank EUMETSAT for the continued support through the provision of capacity building in the whole continent (both training and equipment) and in the reception, procession and visualisation of satellite data for forecasting and training purposes.
"At IMTR we train forecasters to use EUMETSAT satellite data to understand what is happening and to then apply that knowledge in predicting what is going to happen. We couldn't do our work without MSG data, it is 90% of the data we use. We are dependent on it for our forecasting."
For aviation training IMTR uses Meteosat data to teach trainees how to forecast thunderstorms, wind shear and near runway rain (which account for the majority of weather-related aviation accidents); snow and ice; fog, and sandstorms (which cause minimal fatal accidents, but major damage to the aircraft engines when sand is ingested.) Meteosat data is also used to help forecast forest fires.
Metop data is used for climate training, and for marine information the institute uses data from Jason.
ITMR runs around 13 courses a year, with more than 70% of participants being from other parts of Africa. A list of courses can be found on the website.
Joseph, himself, started working with satellite data as a forecaster in 1987, but over the years he has seen a vast improvement.
He has worked as a trainer since 1989 and has trained most technical meteorological personnel from English-speaking countries in Africa.
He said: "At least five or more persons from every English-speaking country in Africa have been trained in IMTR-Nairobi. Some have become permanent representatives with WMO for their countries."
He continued: "When I started at the Kenyan Met Department there was one system to access satellite data and it was in the corner of the room. We were encouraged to take a look, but in those days we still had to imagine what was happening and draw a chart. A manual weather analysis chart, that took over three hours to plot and analyse, was the most important tool then.
"In the past people ignored or mistrusted the forecasts. Now people like farmers, tourist agencies and water management companies contact us to find out what we are expecting – both in the short-term and seasonally."
As well as being Principal Meteorologist at IMTR Joseph is also part of the ASMET team, with responsibilities for producing online training modules for aviation forecasting (in English).
He said that both the work he does at IMTR and for ASMET gives him hope for the future of forecasting in Africa.
"Things are better for our trainees. Hopefully, in the future, they will be better forecasters than us because of the opportunities we are giving them. Through using and understanding satellite data they will have more confidence in their forecasts."
He added he hopes that when data from Meteosat Third Generation becomes available things will get even better.
"We are expecting a large improvement, especially in spatial resolution and the frequency of the data. Training from EUMETSAT will continue to be very important. As will the need to provide processing tools available for us to customise the raw data at a local level.
"Ultimately we are training people to use satellite data to aid economic development for food security. The greatest problem in Africa is food security, without it, no matter how much technology there is, there will be problems."