Knowledge for Development

Rainwatch keeps eye on rainfall for West African farmers


Date: 07/06/2011


NOAA-funded researchers hope a new climate information system they developed will help West African farmers help themselves. Rainwatch is a prototype geographic information system (GIS) that monitors monsoon rainfall and tracks season rainfall attributes. This information is crucial because sub-Saharan Africa depends more strongly and directly on rainfall than any other region on Earth, yet the area has the fewest rainfall monitoring stations and significant delays that occur between data collection and its availability for users. Rainwatch automates and streamlines key aspects of rainfall data management, processing and visualization. A major appeal is its simplicity – all interactive interfaces, symbols and names used are unpretentious and self explanatory. In addition, the system can be used by Africans without any outside assistance such as satellite information.

In a successful 2009 demonstration involving seven rain gauge stations in Niger, Rainwatch was shown to directly address the area's need for better rainfall data acquisition, management, representation and rapid dissemination. The programme continued in 2010, when it dramatically showed the return of abundant rainfall. It is expected to expand beyond Niger. Because Rainwatch is simple to operate and more streamlined in design and scope than existing systems, the researchers hope the programme will be adopted and used more widely throughout West Africa where other more complicated rainfall data dissemination systems have had limited success. (NOAA, 12/5/2011)

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