Uncertainty reduction in Models For Understanding deveLopment Applications (UMFULA)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Geography - SoGE


Central and Southern Africa (C&SA) exemplifies the issues that FCFA aims to address: a complex mix of remote and regional climate drivers that challenge conventional climate model simulations, high levels of poorly simulated multi-year climate variability, an extremely low level of investment in climate science relative even to other parts of Africa but particularly West Africa; high physical and socio-economic exposure to climate that projections indicate may become drier and more variable in the future; and low adaptive capacity resulting in decision-making and medium-term planning that is inhibited by significant political, institutional and economic barriers. Meanwhile economic growth and significant infrastructure planning is taking place within C&SA in the absence of adequate climate information.

Deficient understanding of many key climate features in C&SA is one barrier to the integration of climate information into decision-making. UMFULA will provide a step-change in climate science in C&SA. Our objectives include: (i) fundamental research into key climate processes over C&SA and how these are dealt with in models; (ii) a process-based evaluation to determine how models invoke change and whether that change is credible; (iii) production of novel climate products (Work Packages WP1-2) encompassing convection permitting and very high resolution (c4 km) ocean-atmosphere coupled simulations that will reveal processes of high impact events and as yet unexplored complexities of the climate change signal. We will also focus on neglected but critical elements of the circulation such as the links between C&SA and the role of local features including the Angolan Low, Botswana anticyclone, Angola/Benguela Frontal Zone, and the Seychelles-Chagos thermocline ridge. Based on this research and through co-production with stakeholders we will generate improved and streamlined climate information for decision-makers (WP3).

We will use a deliberative and participatory methodology to test findings from FCFA pillars 1 and 2 with stakeholders based on deep engagement in two contrasting case studies: the Rufiji river basin in Tanzania, and sub-national decision-making in Malawi. They are carefully selected as exemplars of multi-sector, multi-stakeholder, and multi-scale decision situations which can be compared for transferable lessons on the effective use of climate services.

In-depth understanding of decision-making contexts, including political economy, theories of institutional change, and individual motivation from behavioural sciences will inform how to tailor and target climate projections for most effective use (WP4). The case study areas (WP5-6) will test these findings through a co-produced framework of C&SA-appropriate decision-making under climate uncertainty to identify robust climate services-informed intervention pathways (portfolios of policies and investments that could work well over a broad range of climatic and socio-economic futures). Our Capstone Work Package (WP7), and major outcome, will be the synthesis of best decision-making models and appraisal methods that are transferable in the African context and enable effective use of climate information in medium-term decision-making.

The seven UMFULA Work Packages cut across the three FCFA pillars to ensure maximum complementarity and integration. We are a consortium with world-leading expertise in climate science, decision science and adaptation research and practice, together with stakeholder networks and strong, long-standing relationships in C&SA. We comprise 5 UK and 13 African institutions.

Planned Impact

Who might benefit from our research? Case study participants: Rufiji river basin: the government River Basin Water Office and the public-private partnership Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania; southern Malawi: Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation and Water Resources, Chikwawa, Nsanje and Thoyolo District Assemblies. Case study outputs will benefit multilateral development banks and the southern African Climate Resilient Infrastructure Facility-CRIDF, who advise on infrastructural development. National and regional decision-makers in C&SA and sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) including Southern African Development Community, WATERNET, CRIDF. Programmes concerned with climate services, e.g. Global Framework for Climate Services, CCAFS, IRI, CLIVAR, ESPA, CARIAA ASSAR. Met Services in Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa and Tanzania. Universities of Zambia and Yaounde. African citizens vulnerable to climate related risks, or reliant on infrastructure/resources that may be affected by climate change (now-40 years on).
How might they benefit from our research? Through deep engagement, national and local government and private sector stakeholders in both Malawi and Tanzania will be enabled to drive a process of improved use of climate services in decision-making processes. This is critical in both case study contexts which have been selected based on the climate risk to water and agriculture infrastructure and the implications it has for economic development. The process will be supported by the Met Services whose capacity will be built to produce country-specific contextualized projections based on the outputs of climate models given their responsibility in country to do so. Active engagement of Met Services within the case study co-production will also build partnerships that extend beyond the project lifetime and can inform on-going country policy processes: for example the development of the National Adaptation Plans. The ultimate aim is that improved use of climate services in decision-making benefits African citizens, not only in Malawi and Tanzania but also further afield, through the proactive communication of robust theoretical and applied findings to decision-makers across C&SA and further disseminated for use throughout SSA. By engaging with major initiatives such as GFCS (which is piloting programmes in both case study countries) we will have outreach and potential impact well beyond the two case studies. Univ Zambia & Yaounde and African Met Services will participate in a 'big science' project involving state-of-the-art high resolution models.
As a team we have a strong track record of applied research and proven impact in climate science and adaptation across Africa. Our approach includes
Co-production of knowledge and stakeholder-driven deliberative processes as the key methodology in the case studies; in which case study participants are engaged throughout the process and have co-ownership of the process and, by definition, the findings will be targeted to be of direct applicability and achieve maximum development impact.
Embedding impact in our management structures to maximize impact over the lifetime of the project and ensure post-project sustainability
1) Impact sub-group led by KULIMA
2) Advisory Panel, high level strategic guidance, through bi-annual TCs with representation from key regional organisations, public and private sector, donors and multi-laterals (eg agreed participation of World Bank staff)
A proactive approach to collaboration with other RPCs and the CCKE, eg invitation to sit on panels to maximise synergistic findings and outreach opportunities
Seizing opportunities for development of African capacity through providing bursaries to students in C&SA countries, making it a policy for senior team members and PDRAs to give guest lectures/research training sessions during C&SA visits (at university and other organisations eg Government) and offer some remote research co-supervision.


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Creese A (2016) Using qflux to constrain modeled Congo Basin rainfall in the CMIP5 ensemble in Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Description Coupled climate models are the key tool for the development of future climate projections. Over data sparse regions it is difficult to know how well the models perform and therefore it is difficult to trust their simulation of future climate. By constraining the models using moisture transport it has been possible to develop a sense of the veracity of the models' performance over the data sparse region of central Africa.
Exploitation Route Policy makers interested in future climate projections of Africa may be able to use the method to identify realistic models versus models that could be ignored.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice