Exploring the Need for Developing Impact-Based Forecasting in West Africa

While conventional weather forecasts focus on meteorological thresholds for extreme events, Impact-Based Forecasts (IBF) integrate information about the potential severity of weather impacts with their likelihood of occurrence. As IBF provides an indication of local risk, there is an increasing uptake of this approach globally. Despite the vulnerability ofWest Africa to severe weather, and the potential benefits of such a risk-based approach for informing disaster risk reduction, IBF remains rarely used in this region. To meet this need, three national workshops were held in Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal with forecasters, project researchers and users of Climate Information Services (CIS) from key sectors (e.g., agriculture, water resources, disaster, risk reduction). In addition, a more localized district level workshop was held in Northern Ghana to explore needs at a subnational scale in Tamale District. The objectives of these workshops were to evaluate the current use of forecast products provided by National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) and to explore the potential for applying IBF. Findings indicate a recognition that the quality of forecast products provided by NMHSs in West Africa has substantially improved in recent years. However, challenges remain related to user understanding, clarity about forecast uncertainty, insufficient spatial and temporal resolution of forecasts leading to limited trust in forecasts. The workshops identified high demand for weather information related to storms, droughts and heatwaves in all the three countries. Dust storms were identified as having strong potential for IBF application in both Nigeria and Senegal. To increase the uptake of CIS by users in West Africa, NMHSs will need to develop and implement user-tailored IBF in their normal weather forecast approaches and improve communication channels with user communities. There is an urgent need for governments in West Africa to enhance the capacity of NMHSs to incorporate IBF as a routine forecast activity by first establishing a National Framework for Climate Services with user engagement as a key first pillar.
This article is published by original research and is also available at doi: 10.3389/fclim.2020.565500
doi: 10.3389/fclim.2020.565500