Are Kenya Meteorological Department heavy rainfall advisories useful for forecast-based early action and early preparedness for flooding?

Macleod, David, Kilavi, Mary, Mwangi, Emmah, Ambani, Maurine, Osunga, Michael, Robbins, Joanne, Graham, Richard, Rowhani, Pedram and Todd, Martin C (2021) Are Kenya Meteorological Department heavy rainfall advisories useful for forecast-based early action and early preparedness for flooding? Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, 21 (1). pp. 261-277. ISSN 1561-8633

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Preparedness saves lives. Forecasts can help improve preparedness by triggering early actions as part of pre-defined protocols under the Forecast-based Financing (FbF) approach; however it is essential to understand the skill of a forecast before using it as a trigger. In order to support the development of early-action protocols over Kenya, we evaluate the 33 heavy rainfall advisories (HRAs) issued by the Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) during 2015–2019.

The majority of HRAs warn counties which subsequently receive heavy rainfall within the forecast window. We also find a significant improvement in the advisory ability to anticipate flood events over time, with particularly high levels of skill in recent years. For instance actions with a 2-week lifetime based on advisories issued in 2015 and 2016 would have failed to anticipate nearly all recorded flood events in that period, whilst actions in 2019 would have anticipated over 70 % of the instances of flooding at the county level. When compared against the most significant flood events over the period which led to significant loss of life, all three such periods during 2018 and 2019 were preceded by HRAs, and in these cases the advisories accurately warned the specific counties for which significant impacts were recorded. By contrast none of the four significant flooding events in 2015–2017 were preceded by advisories. This step change in skill may be due to developing forecaster experience with synoptic patterns associated with extremes as well as access to new dynamical prediction tools that specifically address extreme event probability; for example, KMD access to the UK Met Office Global Hazard Map was introduced at the end of 2017.

Overall we find that KMD HRAs effectively warn of heavy rainfall and flooding and can be a vital source of information for early preparedness. However a lack of spatial detail on flood impacts and broad probability ranges limit their utility for systematic FbF approaches. We conclude with suggestions for making the HRAs more useful for FbF and outline the developing approach to flood forecasting in Kenya.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > Geography
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 19 Mar 2021 08:57
Last Modified: 19 Mar 2021 09:00

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