The University of Reading’s Research Engagement and Impact Awards celebrate research that addresses real world problems. NCAS scientists Professor Emily Black and Dr Rebecca Emerton were among four winners whose work shows huge potential for bringing about positive change internationally. 

landscape 2096089 400Improved outlook for african farmers - Professor Emily Black

Millions of smallholder farmers across Africa now look forward to a more secure future thanks to satellite-derived estimates of rainfall that are helping insurance companies provide effective cover against drought. Although insurance against drought has long been available, the ‘weather index insurance’ (WII) provides pay-outs if cumulative rainfall drops below a pre-agreed threshold. Until recently, only one in a hundred African farms was close enough to rain gauges to be eligible. Now, satellite-derived rainfall estimates mean more farmers can get cover.

Professor Black’s team, working in partnership with financial and agricultural organisations in Africa, has developed a suite of free and easy to apply services under the Satellite data for Weather Index Insurance (SatWIN) project. They provide robust rainfall and soil moisture datasets, together with validation tools and guidelines. SatWIN services are being rolled out across Africa and employed by international development agencies, including the Red Cross. Read more about the extensive impacts of SatWIN and how it links to TAMSAT-based insurance products.

Real-time flood forecasts save lives - Dr Rebecca Emerton

During Cyclones Idai and Kenneth in 2019, Dr Emerton and her colleague Dr Andrea Ficchi’s real-time flood hazard reports helped national and international aid agencies working in Mozambique deliver aid to those most in need. Working in partnership with a range of organisations, including the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts and the University of Bristol, the researchers use weather data and forecasting models to produce simulations that help predict future weather and flooding events. 

During Cyclone Idai they used these models to provide real-time emergency flood hazard reports to the UK government’s Department for International Development and to aid agencies operating in Mozambique. The detailed reports pinpointed regions at risk and the likely severity and duration of floods up to 30 days in advance. This information is designed to help humanitarian organisations make more informed decisions on high-risk areas and therefore take appropriate actions to help those in danger both during and after the cyclone. Read more about how this project is influencing emergency relief interventions at an international scale.