Improved climate data

Project completed
Satellite image showing plumes of smoke rising from forest fires over Sumatra.
Satellite image showing plumes of smoke rising from forest fires over Sumatra. © NASA Worldview © NASA

Together with the SDC, MeteoSwiss has committed itself to improving the climate information base worldwide. High-quality, long-term climate measurement series can be used to estimate the consequences of climate change and to provide a greater understanding of the related opportunities and risks. The project has now come to an end after five years.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Climate change and environment
Biosphere protection
Environmental policy
01.04.2014 - 31.03.2018
CHF  3’090’000

In order to initiate measures at an early stage in the areas of climate protection and adaptation, local decision-makers in developing countries often do not have a reliable data base. The reason for this is a lack of resources for systematic climate observation. 

Following the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in 2009, additional funding was provided for climate change adaptation and mitigation in developing countries. The SDC used this funding to initiate the CATCOS project (Capacity Building and Twinning for Climate Observing Systems) within the framework of its Global Programme on Climate Change and Environment. 

Spanning a period of over five years, the project provided ten partner countries in Africa, South America, Central Asia and Southeast Asia with targeted support in building their climate observation capacity. CATCOS focused on the installation of new measuring instruments, training for station operators and scientists, the promotion of regional cooperation and communication on the advantages of the climate data collected. 

Several Swiss partners took part in the project: the Paul Scherrer Institute, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research (Empa), the University of Fribourg and the University of Zurich. 

First, the measurements

From 2011 to 2016, greenhouse gas, aerosol and glacier measurements were established in seven – subsequently a total of ten – partner countries. In addition to the installation of measuring instruments and the resumption of climate observations, tailor-made training courses were provided, in the countries themselves and also in Switzerland. Local scientists, as well as station operators, were not just given training on how to use the new equipment, but also on how the collected data had to be processed in order to meet international quality standards. In subsequent courses, training was given on how to analyse the data scientifically and how to evaluate the results. 

The expertise obtained through CATCOS was given recognition in the partner countries, as confirms Budi Satria, climatologist with the Indonesian Weather Service (BMKG): "After three months of training in Switzerland, I was able to better understand the effects of forest fires on air quality in Sumatra. I even received an award for my analyses at an international scientific workshop.”

Prof. Urs Baltensperger talking with Budi Satria.
Budi Satria (right) at the inauguration of an Indonesian observing station talking to Prof. Urs Baltensperger from the Paul Scherrer Institute. © BMKG

Increased use of climate data

The project made it possible for the data collected to be sent to international data centres and made freely accessible to the public, thus making a valuable contribution to the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS). Various communication channels were used to inform decision-makers about the value and availability of the climate data, including country visits, presentations, articles published in the media, scientific publications and information brochures. 

In addition, the mobile application ‘wgms Glacier’ was developed, which allows easy access to scientific glacier information from all over the world. Jorge Luis Ceballos, glaciologist at the Colombian Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (IDEAM), is emphatic: “Thanks to this app, everyone can follow the glacier melt in the tropics and compare it internationally”.

Jorge Luis Ceballos talking with Dr Michael Zemp.
Jorge Luis Ceballos (left) talking to Dr Michael Zemp from the University of Zurich. © IDEAM

Promoting regional cooperation

Workshops for Southern Africa, Latin America and Central Asia were held, bringing together the national weather services and representatives of key organisations from the agriculture, water, health and disaster preparedness sectors. This enabled a dialogue to be established between producers and users of climate services in the three regions. "In the first regional workshop in Southern Africa proposals were formulated to close gaps in the value chain of climate services in the region," explains Elliot Bungare, Head of International Affairs at the National Weather Service of Zimbabwe (MSD).

A dozen or so experts sitting in a seminar room.
At a regional workshop in Southern Africa, joint proposals for a better circulation of climate services were formulated for the region. © MSD

Text and photos appeared originally on the MeteoSwiss blog.

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