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Africa Relies on satellites for monitoring extreme weather and natural disasters, says AU

Africa depends on satellites for information about rainfall, floods, droughts, wildfires, and other extreme events, Harsen Nyambe Nyambe, the director of Sustainable Environment and Blue Economy for the African Union Commission has said.

Nyambe Nyambe said, “Satellites are a very reliable source of weather and climate data in Africa because, in most African countries, there are very few weather stations on the ground. So, we depend on satellites for information about rainfall, floods, droughts, wildfires, and other extreme events.”

Cyclone Freddy devastated south-eastern Africa last spring, killing 1,500 people across five countries.

More recently, the flooding that occurred in Kenya in the first week of May 2024 took the lives of over 200 people and displaced over 400 people.

The African Union Commission noted that early warning systems are crucial for minimising the loss of life from natural disasters.

Satellite data are crucial for early warning systems in Africa, where few weather stations are on the ground. This allows meteorologists to predict better and monitor extreme weather events induced by climate change.

According to Space Hubs Africa data, 15 African countries have launched 59 satellites, with South Africa’s first satellite, SUNSAT-1, launched in 1998.

Eight satellites have been launched in West Africa: seven in Nigeria, NIGERIASAT-1, in 2003 and one in Ghana, GHANASAT-1, in 2017.

Nyambe is excited about two upcoming satellite programs focusing on Africa that will enhance worldwide weather, climate, and environmental monitoring. These programs include the Meteosat Third Generation (MTG) with its MTG satellites and the EUMETSAT Polar System-Second Generation (EPS-SG) program with its Metop-Second Generation (Metop-SG) satellites.

Each programme will provide complementary benefits for Africa, including more frequent images, better monitoring of tropical cyclones, thunderstorms, and wildfires, and essential data about thunderstorms in regions of Africa where they are particularly beneficial.

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