SA goes hi-tech with weather forecast

Monday, March 29, 2010

Pretoria - Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Buyelwa Sonjica, has launched a state-of-the-art weather radar network that will see the prediction of and warnings about severe weather become more accurate.

Government has granted the South African Weather Service R240 million for infrastructure investment to upgrade and replace its over 30-year-old radar systems to bring about a substantially improved weather observation network that meets contemporary needs.

The new weather radars will play a vital role in enhancing adaptation tools and products such as the Severe Weather Forecast project and the Flash Flood Guidance System that minimise loss of life and damage to property. The radar network consists of 12 new Doppler weather radars.

Sonjica said: "As government and the only shareholder, we must ensure that the Weather Service remains at the cutting edge of meteorological technological development to improve accuracy and to also remain relevant in order to benefit us all."

Currently, the South African weather radar network consists of 12 radars located across the country. The network has been used extensively in the past in various weather predictions, storm identification and aviation applications.

Although useful, the existing radars lack Doppler capabilities. With the introduction of Doppler radars, the movement of storms can also be detected, providing better now-casting during severe storms.

Sonjica said the new radar system will ensure complete coverage of neighbouring countries such as Lesotho and Swaziland.

"The new system is world-class, superior to most of the systems utilised in other Western countries. We cannot afford to be left out of the scientific progress that will assist our communities in the long term especially with the major concerns of climate change now upon us," she said.

The system can also predict the path of a storm and issue warnings to the people in its path.
It will also detect wind movement in clear air and it can also detect the movement of dust in the air.

The SAWS infrastructure network ranges from automatic weather stations, automatic rainfall stations, a sophisticated lightning detection network, computer infrastructure, satellite receiving equipment and weather radars.