Climate change is expected to impose a considerable burden on the southern African region as it is one of two land-based areas of the planet where large-scale drying is projected to occur in future decades. A lot of the early summer drying is expected to result from the late onset of the rains after the six month long dry season. However much of what we know depends entirely on models rather than observations. In an effort to sharpen our understanding, a team from Oxford joined up with the Zambian Met Department from August to November 2022 to compile a comprehensive dataset on the onset of the rainy season as part of the NERC funded DRYCAB project.
The Oxford team comprised two second year undergraduates, Alice Jardine and Chris Edmunds, who were generously supported by Royal Geographical Society awards and the Keble Association and two new graduates from our BA programme, Charlie Knight and Kitty Attwood. Both Charlie and Kitty have just started their DPhils. Joining them in the field were DRYCAB project postdoc, Dr Callum Munday, Dr Sebastian Engelstaedter, Prof Richard Washington, project PI and Dr Emma Howard. Emma's DPhil, completed in SoGE in 2019, underpinned the DRYCAB project theory and was awarded the prestigious Royal Meteorological Society Malcolm Walker prize. Meanwhile, back in Oxford, Dr Neil Hart and DPhil student Sophie Harbord, provided real-time weather forecast and climate model analysis, some of which was produced by our project partners at the Met Office. This team also joined forces with several third year undergraduates whose dissertations are aligned with DRYCAB.
The fieldwork involved setting up two Lidar systems, one at Solwezi and one at Sakeji Mission School near Ikelenge in far NW Zambia. A total of 800 radiosondes were also released on a 3-hourly timetable, 400 at Nchila (about 3 km from Sakeji) and 400 from Solwezi. A string of AWSs was established in an arc between the two core sites of Nchila and Solwezi. The Oxford field team was based at Nchila where they enjoyed peaceful surrounds without electricity for two months. The Zambian Meteorological Department ran the radiosonde station and Lidar system at Solwezi under the able leadership of Wallace Kasongo.
The Oxford team is deeply indebted to Edson Nkonde, Director of the Zambian Meteorological Department and his deputies Mr Felix Imbwae and Col Rodney Mulenga. Many thanks to Mark Ronald and Doug Hanna at Sakeji School and to Pete Fisher, Hillwood Farm.
Automatic weather station installation at Mwinilunga: Left to right: Enock, Callum, Sebastian
Second Year SoGE undergraduate, Chris Edmunds, recipient of RGS award, prepares a weather balloon
Second year SoGE undergraduates, Alice Jardine and Chris Edmunds, release a weather balloon at Nchila Camp, NW Zambia
First year DPhil student, formerly SoGE undergraduate, winner of H.O.Beckit prize in 2022, Charlie Knight with a radiosonde at Nchila Camp, NW Zambia
First year DPhil student, formerly SoGE undergraduate, winner of H.O.Beckit prize in 2022, Charlie Knight in the office at Nchila Camp, NW Zambia
Richard Washington and Sebastian Engelstaedter, headwaters of the Congo River, Democratic Republic of Congo
DRYCAB postdoc, Callum Munday, prepares a weather balloon at Nchila Camp, NW Zambia
Oxford team in the Democratic Republic of Congo: Left to right: Chris Edmunds (second year SoGE undergraduate), Dr Callum Munday (DRYCAB postdoc), Dr Sebastian Engelstaedter (SoGE staff), Kitty Attwood (SoGE graduate 2022, now Oxford DTP), Alice Jardine (second year SoGE undergraduate)
Richard Washington cooking dinner on a wood stove, Nchila Camp, NW Zambia
The office, Nchila Camp, NW Zambia
Clouds building over Nchila Camp, NW Zambia
Dr Sebastian Engelstaedter and Dr Callum Munday teaching a class at Sakeji Mission school, NW Zambia
Storms over Angola, Nchila Camp, NW Zambia
Kitty Attwood, winner of the undergraduate Met office Academic Partnership prize in 2022, now DTP student, checks her phone for the latest satellite imagery