The South African Weather Service (SAWS) unveiled a new R240-million weather radar network investment programme on Monday, which would be funded by South Africa's Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) over a three-year period.
Speaking at the launch in Pretoria, Environmental and Water Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica said that investment had been pursued to ensure the upgrade and replacement of the country's 30-year old radar systems, as well as to implement an improved the country's weather-observation capacity.
Sonjica told Engineering News Online at the event that South Africa needed the appropriate technology to monitor the possible effects of climate change.
"The world is confronted with the serious problem of climate change, and as a consequence, the weather is becoming increasingly erratic. South Africa needs an up-to-date system that will assist it in providing early-warnings against weather threats," she said.
This information should also be made accessible to the public and especially to those that were most vulnerable to weather threats, particularly those in the rural areas and informal settlements.
Weather radars could play a role in enhancing adaptation tools and products such as severe-weather forecasting and flash-flood guidance.
SAWS CEO Dr Linda Makuleni said that the new radar system would assist greatly to minimise loss of life and damage to property in the events of severe weather conditions.
Further, it would support industries such as the aviation and maritime businesses in planning and reducing long-lead times and ultimately contribute to a decrease in carbon emissions.
Project manager Georgie George told Engineering News Online that 12 new Doppler radars would be purchased within a three-year period. The dishes would be located across the country, each with a 300-km range to detect the intensity of storms, and a range of around 100 km to detect air turbulence.
Two high-resolution mobile X-band systems had already been implemented at the OR Tambo and the Cape Town International airports, to address immediate aviation needs.
A further three fixed-systems had been installed at Irene, Bethlehem and Mthatha.
"SAWS aims to commission another seven radars over the next year, or one, every two months, until April 2011," George explained.
In addition to the new radars, the SAWS infrastructure drive would also include automatic-weather stations, automatic-rainfall stations, a lightning-detection network, computer infrastructure and satellite-receiving equipment.
Sonjica also stressed that the development of human capital would be an integral part of the project.