Scientists devise early thunderstorm alerts for fishermen in Africa

Every year thousands of fishermen in east Africa are killed in boating accidents due to intense night-time thunderstorms that whip up unexpectedly on Lake Victoria. Now a new satellite-based forecast system may help to provide early warnings of the storms.

Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake, is the perfect setting for brewing thunderstorms. During the day hot air rises over the land surrounding the lake (in Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya) creating onshore breezes. At night-time the opposite occurs, with air rising over the now warmer lake, pulling air offshore from the cooling land.

“As the lake is shaped like a circle, these land breezes from all directions converge above the lake. Add evaporation to this cocktail and you get a lot of storms, rain, wind, and waves,” explains Wim Thiery, a climate scientist from ETH Zürich.

Robert Wallace


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