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Expect shorter rainy season this year — Anuforom

Director-General/Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Meteorological Agency, Dr. Anthony Anuforom

The Director-General/Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Meteorological Agency, Dr. Anthony Anuforom, spoke with journalists in Abuja on the need to take seriously forecasts contained in the agency’s 2014 seasonal rainfall. OKECHUKWU NNODIM was there

What do we expect from the 2014 seasonal rainfall predictions from your agency?

Based on the signals that we have at the moment, we are seeing a year that will witness shorter than normal rainy season; in other words, shorter planting and cropping season. We are also seeing a year that will see widespread little dry season, or what is normally called the August break, likely more pronounced than we have had in previous years. From the signals we have, the August break will spread to all parts of the country unlike when it was experienced predominantly in few regions. These are basically the highlights of what we are expecting in 2014.

By shorter rainy season, do you mean there will be less flooding this year?

I want to say something about this issue of flooding because last year, some people said that NIMET said that there would be flooding and it didn’t happen. It is not quite like that. What we predicted was rainfall and it is important to note that rainfall is just one of the parameters or factors that cause flooding in an area. There are other factors that bring about flooding. Secondly, based on the prediction and based on our experience of the previous year, the Nigerian government at different levels took more precautions and, therefore, we didn’t have the widespread flooding that was experienced in 2012. However, don’t forget that the 2012 flooding was also triggered by the opening of dams. So these are all the factors and let us be careful in saying that there will be flooding or there won’t be flooding. What we are saying is what will give you the pattern of the rainfall.

Do the predictions cover the whole towns and villages in Nigeria?

One thing I like to state on the positive side of our seasonal rainfall prediction is that we have increased the number of cities to nearly 400. So you may likely see your own village if you pick up the SRP publication. So the prediction is achieving higher and higher distribution and this is because of the kind of support we have enjoyed from government. We cannot thank the government enough and indeed it is part of the transformation agenda to ensure safety and security of Nigeria. As you have heard, the issue of severe weather is a global phenomenon and it is afflicting Nigerians as well. So government is doing all it can to provide the early warning information and it doesn’t stop with that. It now behoves on Nigerians to think on what they should do. This is what we are doing and this is what we commit ourselves to so as to make sure that the lives and properties of Nigerians are secure by giving them adequate information.

Could you please explain the temperature and rainfall to be expected this year?

We did prediction of temperature and by the way, we have included a new parameter called comfort index, which is relevant to both human and animal health. Those in poultry and livestock farming will find it quite useful. Now in terms of temperature, the pattern we see this year will not be significantly different from the temperature pattern we saw last year. Certain areas of course will have very low comfort index. The details are of course contained in the SRP.

For the rainfall, again we have to look at it parameter by parameter. One is the onset date. What we are seeing is that some parts of the south, particularly southeast and southwest may, and I repeat may; I repeat again may have delayed onset of rainy season. And I will like to explain or advise that when we say onset, it doesn’t mean the first time the rain drops on the soil the rainy season has started. That’s not how it is measured. There are things that come into it in terms of how much rain you have consistently over certain time; to what extent do you have soil moisture? Because at the end of the day we are talking about rain that can sustain life and rain that can sustain agriculture.

So in some parts of the southeast and southwest, we are seeing the likelihood of delayed onset. Of course, the onset ranges from the first week of March in the south to sometime in June in the north. And that is the range of rainfall onset that we have.

Considering your rainfall prediction, what advice do you have for farmers?

NIMET provides weather information. We are not agriculturists and are not farmers so we won’t dabble into issues that are not within our mandate. I earlier stated that we are seeing a year that will have shorter than normal rainy season and as a good agriculturist; you should be able to know what to do – whether to plant early or otherwise. So we provide information from which farmers can draw plans for the planting season. Again I will like to say that we will have shorter than normal rainy season and in addition to that, we are going to see a shorter planting season.

So I will like to state that this is very important because it advises farmers to use early maturing species in their cropping. This is to make sure that within the shorter rainy season they can quickly plant and the crops will reach maturity and harvesting will be done within the short possible time. These are some of the highlights that I can quickly give for now.

With respect to wind shear and how it negatively affects airlines, what has NIMET done to address this?

I will like to say that it is presumptuous, if not preposterous, to say that we will prevent it from ever happening again because there are interplays of so many factors about this. Now coming to your question, of course; I know you have in mind the Sosoliso and the ADC crashes, which are the two crashes in Nigeria in recent time that wind shear can be identified as having a finger print on. Since then and based on the recommendation from the AIB (Accident Investigation Bureau), government had swung into action by providing us with fund to equip all Nigerian airports with wind shear alert systems. Prior to that ADC crash, which was around 2005, there was no single wind shear alert system in Nigeria. After that, based on the recommendation of the AIB, the first wind shear alert system was installed in Abuja airport.

As we speak, we have equipped up to eight or nine airports in Nigeria with wind shear alert systems. Presently, the ninth one is at the Calabar airport and the contractor is on site and work is going on smoothly. What has enabled us to improve on our services is of course the improved infrastructure. It is not that we got all we wanted, but we have continued to improve and government has done pretty well. I have told you that we now have nine wind shear alert systems and I don’t want to start talking about thunderstorm detectors or upper air monitoring stations. Overall, our infrastructure has improved tremendously.

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