Weather equipment neglected: Met dept

HARARE - The Meteorological Service Department (Met dept) is facing challenges in providing accurate weather information, as only about 350 of the country’s 1 400 weather stations are currently operational due to neglect.

The department’s deputy director, Rebecca Manzou, who was speaking at a workshop in Harare last week, said weather instruments — used to measure rainfall and are crucial in guiding agriculture activities, among others — were in short supply.

She admitted her department provided “extrapolated” information.

“ . . . that’s what we are doing because we can’t leave our map blank,” Manzou.

“Sometimes when we say plus or minus, sometimes the error is so huge,” she said, adding that the ideal position is to have a rain gauge in every ward and a weather station in every district in order to improve on observation and data collection.

“We acknowledge that we have some rain gauges that have been abandoned,” Manzou said.

“We have made an inventory as the Met dept . . . some need to be replaced and some need fixing,” she said.

“We need donations so that we have a rain gauge in every Ward of the country so that next time Met Dept’s information is 100 percent correct,” Manzou said.

Juliet Gwenzi, a meteorologist and lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, said capacitating the ill-resourced meteorological unit would go a long way in advancing the country’s forecasting system.

“It would be prudent to mobilise resources and make sure the Met Department has so many stations so that they can produce maps that are more representative of what is on the ground, because as it is right now they tend to extrapolate over long distances,” she said.

Reached for comment, Climate minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri acknowledged that more is needed to be done to capacitate the Met dept.

She, however, said the department had various rainfall indicators to provide accurate weather information.

“What you need to appreciate is that we received a donation from China that uses satellite, which means we are better prepared and our information is more accurate than before.

“We are going to be deploying rain gauges in every Ward . . . we have already started,” she said, adding that “we hope the ministry of Finance will support us because this is very important for planning”.

In terms of seasonal climate forecast, a number of indicators are commonly used for predicting the prospects of the rainy season in Zimbabwe which include the Southern Oscillation Index and Sea Surface Temperatures.

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