Climate Service Initiative Begins Work on a New Continent

Forecasters at Bangladesh Meteorological Department headquarters in Dhaka, Bangladesh. (Photo: Elisabeth Gawthrop/IRI)

After a decade of development and deployment in Africa, a climate data initiative from Columbia University’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) is expanding into Bangladesh this year.

Bangladesh has only 35 ground-based weather stations, and they aren’t evenly distributed throughout the country, leaving significant swaths of land without local weather and climate data.

ENACTS, which stands for Enhancing National Climate Services, blends together climate data from on-the-ground weather stations with similar data observed via satellite as well as outputs from climate models. The result is a richer, high quality climate dataset that can be used to improve climate analysis and forecasting, and lead to more effective climate services for the whole country.

Thus far, the governments of Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and ten other countries in Africa have integrated ENACTS into their national meteorological services. Regional climate centers in east and west Africa also use ENACTS to provide similar services. Bangladesh will be the first country in Asia to use the service.

In June, members of the IRI Data Library team will be at the Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD) to install the new ENACTS datasets, including the quality-controlled weather data. IRI will provide additional technical support for BMD to create custom, publicly available climate information products, called maprooms. The new products will provide information that’s useful to planners and decision makers in agriculture, health, water management and other economic sectors.

IRI climate scientist Nachiketa Acharya demonstrates the capabilities of IRI’s maprooms to trainees at the Bangladesh Meteorological Department in Dhaka. After ENACTS is installed at BMD this month, such maprooms can be developed and tailored for data users in Bangladesh. (Photo: Elisabeth Gawthrop/IRI)

This kind of easily accessible climate information is essential for enacting risk management strategies that can improve Bangladesh’s resilience to climate shocks. The work has been supported by ACToday, a Columbia World Project that applies climate science research to efforts to improve food security and nutrition in six countries around the world, including Bangladesh.

“Climate variability contributes to hunger and malnutrition in many parts of Bangladesh,” says Mélody Braun, who leads the ACToday work in Bangladesh. “Helping the BMD provide improved forecasts and other climate tools specifically created for decision makers in the food sector is a key part of our objectives for ACToday.”

Building an ENACTS dataset requires a close collaboration between a national meteorological service and IRI scientists. Earlier this month, IRI’s Asher Siebert and Rija Faniriantsoa worked with members of the BMD to quality control the country’s weather station dataset using the Climate Data Tool, developed by Faniriantsoa and IRI climate scientist Tufa Dinku.

Dinku conceptualized ENACTS after years of operational experience at Ethiopia’s national meteorological service and later research experience at IRI. “The ENACTS team is very excited about establishing our service in Asia. We have started with Bangladesh, and are finalizing plans to be in Vietnam before the end of the year.” Dinku hopes ENACTS will cover a number of other countries in the region within the next few years.

— Elisabeth Gawthrop. This story was adapted from a blog post by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society. Click here to read the original

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