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African Climate Data Not Fit For Purpose

February 21, 2015

By Paul Homewood




In 2011, the UN published this paper on the quality, or otherwise, of climate records in Africa.

Their findings, though coming as no surprise, were clear.




This paper has looked on the situation of climate data and observations network in the continent. It is shown that the spatial distribution is poor with least coverage over rural areas, many stations do not operate and data from some of the operating stations is not fed into the international system. The quality of data is still poor with gaps of missing data and in some cases there are inefficient quality control systems.


The paper goes on to offer more damning facts:



Climate and weather recording in Africa started during the colonial time with a few number of meteorological stations in the continent (Griffiths and Peterson, 1997). Due to the importance of weather and climate information for various socio-economic sectors, the number of meteorological stations increased with time. However, the quality of data i.e., the continuity and the distribution of meteorological stations in Africa are not dense enough for applications such as weather and climate forecasting, climate studies and climate projections….


The density and coverage of existing African climate data observations network have generally been described in many literatures as poor and sparse (Parker et al., 2011; Institute Water for Africa; Washington et al., 2006). These studies warn that there is need to use with care and caution gridded and assimilated climate data derived from Africa…..


According to the Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization, Michel Jarraud (Nov.6, 2006), Africa’s weather and climate monitoring system is deteriorating and needs major improvements to meet the challenges of climate change….

The climate observation network in Africa appears to be spatially uneven. Most of the stations are found in cities or airports which in most cases are confined along the main roads. Often times researchers complain about the closure of stations and scanty observations.


Add to all of this the large scale changes to micro climate, caused in the last few decades by deforestation and the like, and it is clear that long term temperature records for most of the continent are effectively worthless. This is something I have been banging the drum on for a while, for instance here.


None of this stops GISS from declaring that most of Africa has been warming in leaps and bounds.


  1. Anything is possible permalink
    February 21, 2015 5:42 pm

    Why pick on Africa? NONE of it is fit for purpose.

  2. Joe Public permalink
    February 21, 2015 5:48 pm

    It seems the sparsity of accurate records from countries of that part of the globe, is in inverse proportion to the number of delegates + personal photographers those countries sent to attend the recent gab-fest in Lima.

    • Newsel permalink
      February 21, 2015 11:11 pm


    • February 22, 2015 1:04 am

      In Ghana there were stories of how AIDS and malaria stats were inflated to get more aid money.
      So the same might apply to Global Warming stats.

  3. Brad permalink
    February 21, 2015 5:55 pm

    Is there a summary for each continent showing the history of data collection, coupled with land areas and populations/industry? With a short summary for its weather data accuracy and value?

    I remember reading about Russian posts adjusting their weather data lower in order to get more fuel supplies during the winter? and they lost 100’s maybe thousands of stations with the collapse of the USSR?

    Has China experienced similar issues with winter temperature adjustments?

    • February 21, 2015 7:03 pm

      I have some good data on southern Africa, going back 40 years, showing a general cooling trend, in mean- and maximum- & minimum temperatures. For minima, if you set the cooling trend out against time, you get again very high correlation, 09997….

      MINIMA change °C/yr -0.028 -0.019 -0.020 -0.043
      last 40 yr last 34 yr last 24 yr last 14 yr, respectively.

  4. robinedwards36 permalink
    February 21, 2015 7:35 pm

    moreCarbon…… Any chance of getting a text file of these data? I’d like to see it!

  5. February 21, 2015 7:53 pm

    I will send the excel file to Paul, he can try and put it into a picture. I have very little time lately for any hobby work.
    Data sources: (look at the historic data)

  6. Kelvin Vaughan permalink
    February 21, 2015 8:30 pm

    Some UK weather history here on Pathe.

  7. February 21, 2015 11:03 pm

    Reblogged this on eliquidassets.

  8. February 22, 2015 2:12 am

    Excellent post!!

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