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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Let the rain fall down

Submitted buy Marcel Stieber

West African weather is amazingly diverse and amazingly powerful. From one hour to the next, the blazing
hot sunny skies can get run over by massive storm clouds and start a torrential downpour.

Case Study: Morning of Friday 26 April 2013
I woke up this morning to a lovely cool overcast morning with dark clouds on the horizon. I quickly consulted one of our weather tools call EUMETSAT ( European Organisation for the Exploitation of

See: Meteorological Satellites. It's a perfect example of the wonders of modern technology. Somewhere up in the skies flies a weather satellite that can see the rain and magically make it appear on our smart phones here at the airfield. A quick visit on our web browser gets up half-hour updates on the current weather systems present over the country, and importantly, the surrounding areas to see what storms might develop. It's truly an art to interpret these images though; in real-time they are quite accurate, but any reasonable forecasting is a mix of experience, magic, and dumb luck.

The images this morning showed a nice big twin storm system over the whole country so those dark clouds
on the horizon were sure to bring a sizeable chunk of rain. The skies at 730am were already telling of the impending rains with the 25 knot winds blowing the clouds quickly across the sky. A few short minutes later and the rains began, immediately dousing the area in a downpour that obfuscated all the surrounding hills and brought streams of water flowing from the runway.

The rains come as both a blessing and a curse. For the dried earth, the rain is a welcome addition to bring fresh growth to the farms and grasses and reduce dust and pollution in the air. Conversely, the torrential rain often causes so much water to flow that roads are damaged, houses flooded, construction projects swamped, and crops destroyed. Sadly not everyone has access to the technology that can help us foresee the bigger storms and reduce damages from the water.

As I'm writing this, the storm is already passing by. The heavy rain reduced to a manageable downpour and the birds and lizards already floating around to eat up all the insects that surface when the water flows. The winds are calming down as well and we start to think about all the mowing to come in the coming weeks with the fresh growth of grass that results from the rain.

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