IMPALA: Improving Model Processes for African Climate

Project Timeline
1 Jan 15 - 31 Jan 19
Project Contact
Dr Richard Graham
Project Manager

The IMPALA project is tackling a major scientific hurdle that limits decision-makers from using climate information: current climate models have only a modest ability to capture African climate systems. Because of this, there is large uncertainty and low scientific confidence in important aspects of the projections for Africa’s climate in the next 5–40 years.

IMPALA feeds into the FCFA regional pilot projects through its pan-African scale work on improving knowledge and modelling of African climate. The project focuses on a single climate model, the Met Office Unified Model, to improve its simulation of African climate through a better understanding and representation of weather and climate processes. This will result in reduced uncertainty in future projections of the African climate and provide valuable information to climate scientists and modellers within Africa and worldwide, and empower decision-makers with information that can be used to reduce risks and help protect the livelihoods of the most vulnerable.

The initiative aims to deliver a step change in global climate model capability that will reduce uncertainty and enable better-informed evaluation of the robustness of future projections.

The IMPALA project has developed a very high-resolution pan-African climate model (grid-spacing of around 4km), the first of its kind, that better captures key processes and local-scale weather phenomena including extremes, and provides new understanding of the roles played by these processes in African climate variability and change. The model is called CP4-Africa. The improved knowledge and new simulations are being used by scientists in the four regional research projects (AMMA-2050, FRACTAL, HyCRISTAL and UMFULA) . This, in turn, will deliver more reliable information for decision-makers and scientists in a range of sectors including agriculture, urban and rural water resources, health and infrastructure management and renewable energy.

IMPALA is now in its final year. Plans up to project end in February 2019 include:

  • Consolidate research on the remote and local drivers of African climate and their representation in the Met Office Unified Model (MetUM) and continue submissions to peer-reviewed journals
  • Hold the 4th and final IMPALA science meeting in December 2019
  • Complete 10 years of future climate simulations with the very high resolution, convection-permitting pan-African regional model (CP4-Africa) and provide outputs to the other FCFA consortia. Used with the now completed 10 years of present-day climate simulations, these provide a unique resource to complement conventional model inputs and inform climate change related decision making
  • Release a new version of the global MetUM including upgrades that improve Africa performance - as informed by IMPALA research.
  • Evaluate the new MetUM version over Africa and assess improvements relative to the pre-IMPALA baseline.
  • Advance the development of an Africa model evaluation Hub – coordinating efforts on model evaluation for African climate processes and assisting to accelerate model improvements.
  • Work with the FCFA Regional Consortia to complete cross-FCFA outputs, specifically:
    • Prepare a manuscript describing the CP4-Africa present-day and future simulations as well as applications studies targeted at enabling unique resources to Regional Consortia stakeholders (e.g. new understanding of changes to heavy rain frequency and dry spells)
    • Prepare a technical guide to assist future access to and analysis of CP4-Africa by researchers outside of FCFA in Africa and globally

Read the reports of our previous science meetings:

First IMPALA Science meeting, Exeter, December 10-11, 2015. View the report here

Second IMPALA Science meeting, Leeds, January 19-20, 2017. View the report here