On 22 March 2018, the minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, officially launched the North West University’s (NWU’s) Lekwena Weather Radar, a weather radar network that provides a high-end scientific tool to study and quantify storms and precipitation.
The NWU Lekwena Weather Radar is the result of a three-year study commissioned by the Water Research Commission, to develop a rainfall estimation algorithm, using rainfall data from the new dual polarized Doppler radar, and validate it against a dense rain gauge network.
The NWU assembled and installed the radar, purchased from the United States, 10 km north-east of Potchefstroom on the Lekwena farm.
This project aims to develop infrastructure and build capacity to improve rainfall estimation from multiple platforms that will be freely accessible to the scientific community. Given the research community’s limited access to real-time weather information – which has severely hampered research and finding solutions with regard to weather-based decision support systems – the Lekwena Radar will provide real-time precipitation and weather data.
In its National Intended Contribution, tabled at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2016, South Africa committed to enhance its early weather warning systems. The enhancement of early warning systems can protect local communities from extreme weather events and promote climate-smart agriculture practices. It is also very important, for the transition of the country to an environmentally stable, climate change resilient, low-carbon economy and a just society by 2030, as dictated by the National Development Plan.
“With climate change as a major concern globally and in South Africa specifically, every effort should be made to monitor and understand its drivers and triggers in order to develop and implement evidence-based mitigation and adaptation strategies,” said Minister Molewa.
“The radar will not only assist researchers and scientists, but all South Africans, as it will provide real-time data that will be interpreted into usable information pertaining to climate change and weather conditions. This radar technology provides our country with a substantially improved weather observation network,” she added.
As climate and weather monitoring and forecasting have huge implications for a number of sectors – including agriculture and water resources – the results from the NWU Lekwena Radar are expected to have a real-world socio-economic impact on issues such as flash flooding, drought and other weather-related events.
The success of the NWU Lekwena Weather Radar will result in the development of a technology to calibrate the entire radar network and to develop capacity on rainfall estimation in South Africa.
The minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, addresses the audience during the official launch of the NWU’s Lekwena Weather Radar.
View the official launch below: