Advancing African climate science

REACH postdoc, Dr Ellen Dyer, leads a new phase of African climate research.

Earlier this month, Dr Ellen Dyer, Postdoctoral Researcher in African Hydrology and Climate, affiliated with the Oxford-led REACH programme, embarked on a new phase of research which will work to strengthen linkages between climate and water research across the REACH programme and the Future Climate for Africa (FCFA) programme. Both research programmes focus on developing new evidence for use in decision-making on water and climate in Africa.

Since 2016, Ellen has led the development of East African climate science for the REACH programme. She has worked to advance an understanding of contemporary East African rainfall and temperature, comparing observations against how climate models recreate critical aspects of climate, particularly seasonality and variability. Her research employed a process-based analysis of regional teleconnections and atmospheric circulation patterns; these processes play a crucial role in shaping the climate of the region.

Her research aims to reduce uncertainty in future projections, but also shed light on why East African climate will change in the future [Rowell et al., 2015].

Dr Ellen Dyer

The East African long rains are a particular weakness of global climate models. Ellen is working on understanding the sub-seasonal dynamics of the long rains to develop better climate metrics and understand why so few coupled climate models can simulate climatological rain rates, or trends in this season.

In her new role, in addition to working work align the East African climate research of REACH and FCFA, Ellen will develop metrics for climate-induced risk tailored to user needs for the REACH observatories in Africa.

This work combines analysis of the frequency of large-scale climate extremes, with the investigation of the impact on different users and sectors. For example, the prolonged occurrence of below average rainfall, or warm temperatures, may cause more damage than an isolated extreme event. Creating meaningful metrics requires understanding the regional climate and the socioeconomic landscape in question.

The research will initially focus on climate-risk mapping in Ethiopia’s Awash basin, as part of the REACH Sustaining Growth through Water Security Observatory.