Listen: In Mozambique, Meteorologists Can't Keep Up With Climate Change
"Okay. So so you visited a country that doesn't have super great meteorological data and there are a lot of countries that have this issue but I chose Mozambique and Southern Africa. Okay why sound sound well. Mozambique is a good example of a place where you don't have great weather data and you're dealing with the effects of climate change in a really obvious way so there's -ceptable bowl to cyclones to droughts and floods there's a very long coastline a big river delta and Mozambique was hit by two big cyclones. Last year they're experiencing a drought this year. So yeah it's a place where these issues are front and center. So what does that actually look like for meteorologists in Mozambique. They basically can't can't tell what the weather's going to be is that right. Yeah not that accurately at least so to see how it unfolds. I went to visit Mozambique's National Institute of Meteorology and I hung out with the lead meteorologist Cossio Tampa Bay will. He did his job for morning and on the day I went. It was actually a good example because there was rain in the forecast which is normal and the capital Maputo where we were is pretty flood-prone like if it gets maybe an inch and a half of rain some of the streets will flood. Oh that's not a lot. Yeah not a lot not good so with rain in the forecast while I was there is just sitting at his computer. He has all these tabs open and he is looking at weather maps from Europe from Japan from the US Navy from from the US National Oceanic Administration like up the road here thousands of miles away and he's just like going through these tabs and trying to figure out what's going to happen the resolution of the maps looking at over Mozambique. It's not that great like it's just like big things of clouds over the whole country yet. No it's not good. Yeah Yeah it makes his job super hard so like on this particular day he wanted to know when it would rain and how much but instead all he could really say was that it was going to read some amount sometime sometime in the afternoon in some parts of the area around the capital which is not enough information. If you WanNa like close roots or make sure that people aren't endanger Moose and he told me like right now. We are using global models but what we need is a weather. Model all our own for Mozambique's with better resolution because the weather threats are getting more severe weather threats are we talking about so he's specifically talking about whether other that's worse because the climate is changing. He was really explicit about that. So for example the two cyclones that hit this ear. Cyclones can happen in a normal year right without climate change. But it's a lot more likely you'll get two big storms forming when you're with climate change got US Earth Guitar and if you're a Cossio Temba you're sitting in your office. He and his colleagues were not able to tell where the worst flooding from those storms was going to happen until after they made landfall right right and then at that point it's too late. You're not you're just fixing things instead of trying to prevent things from being damaged or people exactly which is not where you want to be. So what do they need. Well you need better weather forecasting and that means you need two things need better data about what is happening and you need better computer models about what could happen in the future. And I talked to the scientists in Maputo in the capital who basically trains all of the meteorologist's Mozambique he works at the university. Edward Mondlane University city there. His name is Antonio Chaos and he is very focused on the first thing the data itself used to say garbage in garbage out about the model itself doesn't solve anything he's talking about better raw local measurements about like wind and humidity and rain like really basic stuff and Gnat is something that we really take for granted in the US Africa as a continent maybe excluding little bits of Africa discussed the of metrological skull daytime even on the continent side. And it's worse when you go to oceanside oceanside he's talking about the data that's actually collected along the coast out at sea which is where cyclones forum. It's where a lot of whether comes from and there is just not a lot of reliable local data there. Are there any efforts to to fix that to get more more data. Yeah so there's this one example that I think really encapsulates what's going on. So in the early two thousands Mozambique's government and the World Bank Anthony at this German company came together and they installed to weather radar stations on the coast of Mozambique and one of the two towers was in the town of shot which is only like three hours from the capital. And I was going there anyway. I wanted to see it because I had heard that the president himself cut the ribbon when it was opened in two thousand four presidents love to cut ribbons. No matter where you are they love it. So I visit this place and the guy who unlocks the gate for me. Is this this Guy Salomao mouse and he's the janitor for the local meteorology office and for years. He has been walking like three miles up this hill to dust. Sweep and keep it clean. Can we go inside your body red ladder you into a hole in the ceiling. Can you hear that. You're very echoey dome and telescope sort of And it looks fine but Salam mouse tells me this story. While we're standing up there in the dark it goes like like this so the radar is installed into four and before that people in this area and he's from here they didn't take the weather forecast very seriously because often they were wrong so like when there was flooding predicted people would just stay in their homes. Leave their cattle out in the low lying fields and often bad things would what happened so then in two thousand eight four years after the radars installed. There's the storm and there's heavy rain and there's wind in the local meteorologists can see from the radar data that the storm is stalled. Like it's not moving and so they put out a warning they're like. Hey guys be careful. The storm is not over. It's going to be like two to three days. Do not go out. Like don't go to areas and they were right okay and people were super impressed. Like Salma Mouse Remembers people saying like were you talking to God with that thing. Oh okay wow so yeah this radar made people really really proud proud good but then shortly after that the radar started to malfunction. That's what they do they do that. They're they're really hard to keep calibrated. And it's extra hard when you're not in place that's had radar in the past. There's not one of expertise in the area. The company that made it was from Germany and like local technicians. Didn't necessarily fairly heavily expertise they needed or the parts and in the end this particular radar towers. It stopped working altogether around twenty thirteen. And what really kills kills me is like mouse. Janitor has been keeping it clean anyway ever since like going there every few days gotta have imagine. That's like extremely frustrating right. He's like maintaining you keeping it clean like ready for somebody to come in there but he has no idea if and when somebody's GonNa actually make it work again yeah. I asked him this because I was driving up the wall and he was like of course it does yes. It is extremely annoying and he still hopes it'll start working again. Yeah so if it if it doesn't start working again is weather radar in that area. The only way meteorologists can get information about the local weather or is there something else else that they can do. Yeah that's the big question and a lot of meteorologists and climate scientists. I talked to you about this issue. They said that in the long term for places like Mozambique the better option maybe satellite data. There are already whether satellites up there in orbit collecting information about a lot of the world. And if you could just get that information mission to the people that need it it might be a better source. But it's an enormous amount of data. That's coming down. So you need great Internet. You need computing power so you need more training for the people who actually going to use this data plus you need a better weather models put it all into and all of that is super expensive and and I think we all know that governments generally don't have lots of cash around just waiting to be invested in science generally speaking no look the science slush fund. It hasn't been something that you know. I mean we're doing all right over here but it's not great. Yeah exactly and Mozambique is no different like Muslim because not a rich country they do not. I have a ton of money lying around to like totally upgrade their weather systems or they would have already done it and every time. There's a disaster. That's more money out the door or to help with the immediate recovery which is important but it's a vicious cycle exactly and actually the Paris climate agreement has something built into it to help countries Lake Mozambique deal with the effects of climate change and prepare for the future. It's called capacity building and it's a mechanism that's supposed to have richer countries the countries countries that historically contributed the most climate change. Help foot the bill for smaller countries countries. That didn't contributed so much to climate change to prepare right and I feel like that's just going to be a question that keeps coming up kind of over and over which is who should shoulder the burden for the challenges that are caused by climate. Change right yeah yeah yeah. It's really hard question. And there's what should happen and there's what is happening to like up until now. Even though most countries say they agree with the idea that richer countries the help foot the bill the actual not of money changing hands is relatively small higher Rebecca Hersher. I appreciate you appreciate you"