Africa Increases Designation of GBON Stations

01 June 2023

The approval of the Global Basic Observing Network (GBON) by the Extraordinary World Meteorological Congress in 2021 (Cg-Ext 2021) made increasing the designation of GBON stations in sparsely covered regions a priority at WMO. Thus, at the beginning of 2023, the WMO Regional Office for Africa redoubled its capacity building efforts with the Members of WMO Regional Association I (RA I, Africa) to ensure the designation of GBON stations. A group training session brought together 50 participants from African National Meteorological and Hydrological Services, who then received 42 follow-up bilateral sessions with national focal points for OSCAR Surface and metadata editors. As a result, GBON stations in Africa increased from 589 to 1 045 surface stations and from 38 to 50 upper air stations. That is 456 new surface stations and 12 new upper air added between January 2023 and June 2023. In addition, 11 new OSCAR Surface national focal points and 2 new metadata editors were nominated by Members within that period. This demonstrates Africa’s significant commitment to GBON.

Weather and climate extremes are increasing in frequency and intensity, but the number of related deaths is decreasing thanks to improvement in the early warning systems for such hazards. Technological and scientific breakthroughs have enabled both better and more timely weather forecasts; however, gaps in the observational coverage, especially in Africa, limit the skill of the local and global weather forecasting systems. GBON aims to close those gaps by increasing the designation of stations that generate observational data to support global Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP), regional and local forecasts and warnings as well as climate service delivery.

Data from GBON surface and upper air stations are expected to be shared globally every hour and every 12 hours, respectively, in buffer format. The typical distance between stations at standard horizontal spacing is 200 km for surface land stations, 500 km for upper air stations – but less distance is preferred down to 100 km and 200 km respectively at high density. Since the WMO Regional Office’s training sessions, many countries in Africa have surpassed the GBON minimum target, which was determined based on global GBON gap analysis. This is indicative of a willingness to comply with technical regulations and to share more data globally. In addition, stations registered on OSCAR/Surface increased by 77% in Burundi, by 28% in Guinea, by 71% in Liberia and by 31% in Sudan.

The next step is to work on solutions to technical problems that hinder data transmission. Many African countries have is a mix of manual and Automatic weather Stations (AWS) – from various suppliers – in their observation network, complicating the automation and integration of data collection and transmission. Financial limitations also make it a struggle for National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) to update and maintain to stations.

The Systematic Observations Financing Facility (SOFF), which has kicked-off projects in 24 African countries, will play an important role in assisting African countries with addressing GBON challenges. SOFF was created to support countries with GBON implementation along its entire value chain, from gap analysis to investing on infrastructure and maintenance. Additional support will come from the implementation of WMO Information System 2.0 and the adoption of WIS2Box – a free open-sources tool for data sharing and transmission globally.

The closing of the gaps in the GBON is improving the quality of early warning services, contributing to the realization of the United Nations Early Warnings for All Initiative (EW4All). SOFF projects cover all countries identified for initial EW4All implementation, 13 of which are in Africa. The work to boost GBON surface coverage in Africa aligns with the decision of the 19th session of the World Meteorological Congress on GBON implementation.