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TomorrowNow Collaborates With Kenya Meteorological Department, Tomorrow.io & TAHMO to Improve Rainfall Forecasting in East Africa
May 22, 202411 min read

TomorrowNow Collaborates With Kenya Meteorological Department, Tomorrow.io & TAHMO to Improve Rainfall Forecasting in East Africa

TomorrowNow and partners have deployed specialized laser gauges to improve rainfall forecasting in East Africa for food security applications and scientific research.

Kenya—TomorrowNow, a climate-tech nonprofit, in partnership with Tomorrow.io, is excited to announce the commissioning of 5 laser rain gauges (disdrometers) in Kenya and Rwanda as part of its commitment to improving the quality and accessibility of weather data on the data-sparse African continent and further improving the accuracy of existing datasets for climate adaptation.

Aligned with our capstone initiative OSIRIS, TomorrowNow partnered with Kenya Meteorological Department, the Trans-African Hydro-Meteorological Observatory (TAHMO), and Tomorrow.io through the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to commission the laser disdrometers across different sites to enable open access to high-resolution rainfall data.

Laser Disdrometers at a Glance; A Game Changer in Rainfall Forecasting

Laser disdrometers provide more detailed information about rainfall characteristics beyond the amount of rain. These high tech instruments have been designed to generate precise data about the size and velocity of raindrops falling through a specified area.

The range of information acquired through laser disdrometer operation can be applied in helping meteorologists better understand the intensity of rainfall events as an important step towards better studying flooding, soil erosion and other hydrological impacts.

In addition, laser disdrometer data can be used to validate the already-existing weather prediction models by providing ground-based validation data to improve the reliability of satellite-based rainfall forecasts.

Overall, laser disdrometers generate valuable data that can enhance the accuracy and reliability of rainfall forecasting, leading to improved preparedness and response to weather-related hazards and disasters.

Osiris Laser Disdrometers Will Validate Tomorrow.io Satellite Data

In addition to their utility for forecast model validation, the deployed laser disdrometers are an important element of the ground validation program for the Tomorrow.io precipitation mapping constellation of Ka-band radar and millimeter-wave passive microwave sounder satellites.

“Tomorrow.io is proud to partner with TomorrowNow.org, the Kenya Meteorological Department, and TAHMO in deploying laser disdrometers across East Africa, a significant step forward in improving the accuracy and reliability of rainfall forecasting in the region,” said Joe Munchak, Senior Atmospheric Data Scientist at Tomorrow.io. “The ground-based validation data provided by these instruments will refine our satellite-based precipitation products and support the development of more effective early warning systems, ultimately empowering local communities to build resilience against the impacts of climate change.”

The principal measurement quantity from the Tomorrow.io constellation is surface precipitation rate, which in general can be compared against ground truth measurements from ground-based radar, rain gauges, laser disdrometers, and other highly reliable sources. 

However, the laser disdrometers are of particularly high value for satellite precipitation retrieval validation due to their ability to provide the full drop size and fall velocity distributions. Conversion of measured radar reflectivity into the rainfall rate at the surface depends on several assumptions. 

The laser disdrometers can provide clues regarding the source of any systematic biases in the Tomorrow.io precipitation products over East Africa, resulting in improvements to the accuracy of these products. 

Validation of the remotely sensed products from the Tomorrow.io satellites using these point disdrometer measurements will give stakeholders and end users confidence in the real-time and forecasted precipitation products that Tomorrow.io generates based off of the constellation observations.

The osiris laser disdrometers are currently operational in the following sites across varying agro ecological zones in Kenya and Rwanda:

  • Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) Matuga Horticulture Research Institute in Kwale County
  • Maseno University in Kisumu County
  • Moi University in Uasin Gishu County
  • Kenya Meteorological Department Headquarters in Nairobi County
  • One Acre Fund site in Kayonza, Rwanda

The Need for Quality Rainfall Data in Agronomy Activity & Scientific Research

The TomorrowNow team learnt from KALRO Matuga’s deputy director, Dr. Juma Magogo, about the important role of the research center in ensuring that farmers are able to access certified seeds and quality seedlings that are then transplanted across the country to enable national food security.

At the core of its operation is a weather station on site that transmits relevant data to KMD, which then adds to the national trove of weather information that goes into an early warning system for weather-related events.

Weather data is also used by the station’s researchers to best provide advisory to farmers that rely on KALRO Matuga for information about horticultural practices concerning the cultivation of crops including sweet potatoes and paw paw.

“Rainfall data is critical to our work as it allows us to best advise farmers in our region about horticultural best practices and how they can optimize their mostly rain-fed farming activities” 

  • Dr. Juma Magogo, Deputy Director, KALRO Matuga Horticulture Research Institute.

In Uasin Gishu County, the TomorrowNow team was received in Moi University by the institution’s Vice Chancellor Prof. Isaac S. Kosgey, MBS, who expressed keen interest in ensuring that the laser disdrometer installation boosts climate innovation learning at the university as well as contribute to national weather and climate adaptation.

“This laser disdrometer is going to benefit our current agronomic research programs and help us better support communities that neighbour this university to better adapt to the worsening effects of climate change”

  • Prof. Isaac S. Kosgey, MBS, Vice Chancellor, Moi University.

The laser disdrometer is going to be a valuable addition to the current range of weather instruments on campus that have been generating weather data that contributes to the national forecasting efforts spearheaded by the Kenya Meteorological Department.

While speaking about the new development, Mr. Philip Frost (Director Climate Resilience for TomorrowNow) thanked the University for providing a platform where novel technology can be deployed to bolster research activities on campus and further improve the accuracy of existing weather datasets for climate adaptation.

Elsewhere, in Kisumu County, the TomorrowNow team met with the leadership at the Maseno University’s Linkages, Outreach and Consultancies (LOC) directorate that welcomed the opportunity to leverage the Osiris laser disdrometer installation to pursue partnership activities that are going to benefit postgraduate students as well as the neighbouring communities within Kisumu County.

We were honored to be joined by Mr. Frederick Abisae Sedah, Assistant Director of Meteorological Services -Observation & Network at the Kenya Meteorological Department, who said, “Our mandate at the Kenya Meteorological Department is to support the densification of meteorological stations and equipment to benefit early warning against weather and climate-related events.The Osiris laser disdrometers are one such example.”

About TomorrowNow Osiris Program

TomorrowNow.org is a climate-tech nonprofit focused on unlocking and sustaining the transformative potential of next-generation weather intelligence for communities most impacted by climate change. 

Transformative weather technologies, powered by AI and satellites, are rapidly emerging but they will not reach vulnerable communities until large, systems-level gaps are solved. TomorrowNow is on a mission to urgently address these gaps.

Osiris Program represents a foundational strategic investment to enhance the value, adoption, and long-term viability of localized weather forecasts and historical climate datasets in Africa aimed at empowering the Small-Scale Producer (SSP) ecosystem.

About Kenya Meteorological Department 

The mandate of the KMD is to provide timely early warning weather and climate information for safety of life, protection of property and conservation of the natural environment. This mandate is anchored on Executive Orders on the structure and organization of the Government of Kenya and the World Meteorological Organization Convention.

The Convention also recognizes the NMHSs to be the single and authoritative voice and source on matters of severe weather and extreme climate events among WMO’s member states.

 

About TAHMO

The Trans-African Hydro-Meteorological Observatory (TAHMO) aims to develop a vast network of weather stations across Africa. Current and historic weather data is important for agricultural, climate monitoring, and many hydro-meteorological applications.

The TAHMO initiative is committed to serving the public by advancing the free and open exchange of hydro-meteorological data collected with its monitoring stations.

By allowing the free download of all raw TAHMO data for scientific research and governmental applications, TAHMO supports World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Resolution 40 and Resolution 25. Commercial applications of TAHMO data are considered on a case-by-case basis.

About Tomorrow.io

Tomorrow.io is the world’s leading resilience platform, empowering organizations to thrive in the face of increasing climate volatility. Supercharged by next-generation space technology, advanced AI, and proprietary modeling capabilities, Tomorrow.io enables businesses and governments to proactively mitigate weather-related risks, ensure operational continuity, and drive critical decision-making. Global leaders, including JetBlue, Fox Sports, Uber and governments around the world rely on Tomorrow.io’s Resilience Platform to transform weather forecasts into actionable insights, protecting assets, streamlining operations, and safeguarding communities.

Join the resilience revolution at www.tomorrow.io

 

Media contact: Kenneth Chepkwony: kenneth.chepkwony@tomorrownow.org