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RAINWATCH informs UN procedures for Early Warning of El Niño/La Niña extreme weather events

In 2016 the UN Special Envoy for El Niño and Christian Aid supported inclusion of extensive references to the RAINWATCH platform in the SOP, which will help to catalyse and guide earlier humanitarian and development action to future El Niño/La Niña-related extreme weather events, such as drought, flooding, cyclones and extreme heat/cold and other related events including disease outbreaks.

The document outlines what actions need to be taken once there are warning signs of a possible or impending event in order to mitigate or prevent its impacts. The updated 2018 SOP is available here.

The inclusion of RAINWATCH was a direct result of a presentation Professor Rosalind Cornforth, Director of the Walker Institute, gave at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) in 2014 on using RAINWATCH cumulative rainfall data in Niger to give earlier indication of when it is possible to say with virtual certainty that a drought is imminent. This case study highlighted the value of the RAINWATCH methodology, in mitigating against the impacts of extreme weather. Both El Niño and La Niña event scenarios can result in loss of livelihood and lives, and early warning systems such are incredibly valuable to help to mitigate against some of the risks.

The RAINWATCH platform was originally co-developed by University of Oklahoma’s Aondover Tarhule and Peter J. Lamb, Director of the NOAA Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies (CIMMS) and AfClix at Walker, and it is now supported by the Institute. It publishes a range of historic and current rainfall and temperature data from weather stations across 16 member countries in Africa, who form the RAINWATCH Alliance.  Members access and directly use this data for monitoring and reporting (www.rainwatch-africa.org). Access to the information on the RAINWATCH platform directly informs early warning systems, which are used to prompt officials to act sooner when faced with the possibility of extreme weather events such as drought or flooding.