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Taking the HIGHWAY to Save Lives on Lake Victoria

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  • 1 National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado;
  • | 2 Thunderbolt Global Analytics, Huntsville, Alabama;
  • | 3 National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado;
  • | 4 Paul Watkiss Associates, Oxford, United Kingdom;
  • | 5 Independent Humanitarian Communications and Media Consultant, Dunbar, Scotland;
  • | 6 Space Science and Engineering Center, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, Wisconsin;
  • | 7 Met Office, Exeter, United Kingdom;
  • | 8 Tanzania Meteorological Authority, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania;
  • | 9 Uganda National Meteorological Authority, Kampala, Uganda;
  • | 10 Kenya Meteorological Department, Nairobi, Kenya;
  • | 11 Rwanda Meteorology Agency, Kigali, Rwanda;
  • | 12 Met Office, Exeter, United Kingdom;
  • | 13 Space Science and Engineering Center, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, Wisconsin;
  • | 14 University of Alabama in Huntsville, Huntsville, Alabama
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Abstract

Up to 1,000 drowning deaths occur every year on Lake Victoria in East Africa. Nocturnal thunderstorms are one of the main culprits for the high winds and waves that cause fishing boats to capsize. The High Impact Weather Lake System (HIGHWAY) project was established to develop an Early Warning System for Lake Victoria. Prior to HIGHWAY, weather forecasts for the lake were overly general and not trusted. Under the HIGHWAY project, forecasters from weather service offices in East Africa worked with leaders of fishing communities and Beach Management Units to develop marine forecasts and hazardous-weather warnings that were meaningful to fishermen and other stakeholders. Forecasters used high-resolution satellite, radar, and lightning observations collected during a HIGHWAY field campaign, along with guidance from numerical weather prediction models and a 4.4-km resolution Tropical Africa model, to produce specific forecasts and warnings for 10 zones over the lake. Forecasts were communicated to thousands of people by radio broadcasters, local intermediaries, and via smartphones using the WhatsApp application. Fishermen, ferry-boat operators, and lakeside communities used the new marine forecasts to plan their daytime and nighttime activities on the lake. A socioeconomic benefits study conducted by HIGHWAY found that ∼75% of the people are now using the forecasts to decide if and when to travel on the lake. Significantly, a 30% reduction in drowning fatalities on the lake is likely to have occurred, which, when combined with the reduction in other weather-related losses, generates estimated socioeconomic benefits of $44 million per year due to the HIGHWAY project activities; the new marine forecasts and warnings are helping to save lives and property.

© 2022 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Rita D. Roberts, rroberts@ucar.edu

Abstract

Up to 1,000 drowning deaths occur every year on Lake Victoria in East Africa. Nocturnal thunderstorms are one of the main culprits for the high winds and waves that cause fishing boats to capsize. The High Impact Weather Lake System (HIGHWAY) project was established to develop an Early Warning System for Lake Victoria. Prior to HIGHWAY, weather forecasts for the lake were overly general and not trusted. Under the HIGHWAY project, forecasters from weather service offices in East Africa worked with leaders of fishing communities and Beach Management Units to develop marine forecasts and hazardous-weather warnings that were meaningful to fishermen and other stakeholders. Forecasters used high-resolution satellite, radar, and lightning observations collected during a HIGHWAY field campaign, along with guidance from numerical weather prediction models and a 4.4-km resolution Tropical Africa model, to produce specific forecasts and warnings for 10 zones over the lake. Forecasts were communicated to thousands of people by radio broadcasters, local intermediaries, and via smartphones using the WhatsApp application. Fishermen, ferry-boat operators, and lakeside communities used the new marine forecasts to plan their daytime and nighttime activities on the lake. A socioeconomic benefits study conducted by HIGHWAY found that ∼75% of the people are now using the forecasts to decide if and when to travel on the lake. Significantly, a 30% reduction in drowning fatalities on the lake is likely to have occurred, which, when combined with the reduction in other weather-related losses, generates estimated socioeconomic benefits of $44 million per year due to the HIGHWAY project activities; the new marine forecasts and warnings are helping to save lives and property.

© 2022 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Rita D. Roberts, rroberts@ucar.edu
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