Weather warnings help to protect lives and property- Sifiso Nzalo

05 March  2024

Sifiso Nzalo is a Meteorologist under the Department of Meteorology in the Ministry of Tourism and Environmental Affairs. In our latest civil servants’ blog, he talks about the challenges of forecasting ever-changing weather patterns, the effects of climate change and the impact of digitisation on weather forecasting.

Government Communications (GC): “When did you join the Civil Service?”

Sifiso Nzalo (SN): “I have been permanently employed since 2013.”

GC: “What is your current job now and what does it entail?”

SN: “I am a meteorologist employed by the Department of Meteorology, which is under the Ministry of Tourism and Environmental Affairs. I possess a Bachelor of Science Degree, majors being Mathematics and Physics from the University of Eswatini. I also possess a Master of Science Degree (MSc) in Numerical and Mathematical Modelling of the Atmosphere Oceans and Climate from the University of Reading in England. My duties in my current job are as follows;

  • • In charge of the advisory section. This is a unit that is responsible for meteorological data collection, archiving and processing.
  • • A national gender and climate change focal point (NGCCFP) for climate negotiations, implementation and monitoring under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Southern African Development Community (SADC) and World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).
  • • In charge and operate all climatological activities to satisfy the requirements of users in the country.
  • • Provide guidelines and procedures for the analysis and processing of climatological data and information.
  • • Archive meteorological data and information that are collected and processed in the country and subsequently conduct studies of the climate and weather of various places in the country and prepare necessary advice to end-users.
  • • Responsible for meteorological data rescue.
  • • Prepare seasonal forecast and other products in support of the country’s planning processes.
  • • Ensure that seasonal forecast is prepared, published and otherwise disseminated on time and in accordance with national and international standards.
  • • Provide additional guidance on recommendation made by the Commission on Climatology of WMO.
  • • Participate in the training of meteorological personnel.”

GC: “Before this role, what other positions did you occupy in the Service?”

SN: “These are the roles I have held:

  • Climate Change Project Coordinator with the Department of Meteorology, under the Ministry of Tourism and Environmental Affairs: September 2011 to October 2013
  • Meteorological officer with the Department of Meteorology under the Ministry of Tourism and Environmental Affairs: December 2009 to 2010
  • Teacher for Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology at High Scholl level: June 2009 to Dec 2009

GC: “Sometimes there are concerns from the public that weather forecasts provided by the Department do not match up with what happens on the day. What causes this?”

SN: “Weather is made up of six main components. These are temperature, atmospheric pressure, cloud formation, wind, humidity and rain. A small change to any of these conditions can create a different weather pattern. Every weather pattern has a knock-on effect, creating a ripple effect. That's why weather can sometimes seem chaotic hence a change to what is actually observed on the ground in real time sometimes.”

GC: “As someone who forecasts the weather, how would you say climate change has impacted weather patterns in Eswatini?”

SN: “Climate change in the Kingdom of Eswatini is causing an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme events, such as heavy rainfall and tropical thunder storms accompanied with hailstorms. The occurrence of these has caused the acceleration of soil erosion, a decrease in agricultural outputs, and the reduced supply of ecosystem goods and services are increasingly impacting the economy. The most vulnerable communities, with increasing poverty levels and food insecurity, are especially exposed due to rising average temperatures and a shift in seasonal rainfall patterns.”

GC: “Why is it important for the Nation to have up to date weather forecasts?”

SN: “Weather warnings are important because they are used to protect lives and property. Forecasts based on temperature and precipitation are important to agriculture, and therefore to traders within commodity markets. Temperature forecasts are used by utility companies to estimate demand over coming days.”

GC: “How has digitisation changed the work of the Meteorology Department?”

SN: “Digitisation of technologies has enhanced data acquisition, analysis, long-term planning, capacity building and efficient operation of network and non-network services of the Department of Meteorology as we aspire for early warning for all in Eswatini.”

GC: “So far, what would you say the biggest highlight/achievement of your Civil Service journey has been?”

SN: “As a long-range (seasonal and climate) forecaster, I have been able to provide a range of possible climate changes that are likely to occur in the season ahead. It is important to bear in mind that, because of the chaotic nature of the atmospheric circulation, it is not possible to predict the daily weather variations at specific locations months in advance. It is not even possible to predict exactly the average weather, such as the average temperature, for a given month. I have been able to coordinate with major stakeholders in issuance and providing advice to them for planning purposes. So far, the seasonal forecasts I have been providing since 2015 have been spot on, and this has helped stakeholders to plan on the season ahead.”

GC: “What is the biggest project that you have been involved in working for Government?”

SN: “I have worked for the project ‘Strengthening Early Warning Systems and Climate Services in Eswatini,’ as a Project Manager. This project is born out of an MOU between the Governments of the Kingdom of Eswatini and the Republic of Italy. The two states are represented by the Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea of the Republic of Italy (IMELS) and the Ministry of Tourism and Environmental Affairs of the Kingdom of Eswatini (MTEA). The project had a budget of about €970,880.00 (E19,899,425.92).”

GC: “What do you love the most about working in Government?”

SN: “I love serving the Nation at large, advising and giving guidance on weather and climate related information.”

GC: “What do you love the most about your job and profession?”

SN: “As a Science scholar, I love the application of my science knowledge on modelling the behaviour of our atmosphere and climate and doing projections.”

GC: “What would you say are some of the challenges that come with your job?”

SN: “The major challenge is inadequate meteorological data (data gaps) which helps us to do extensive climatic analysis. But then efforts are being made by the Department to try and avoid those data gaps for future use.”

GC: “What lessons have you learnt working for Government?”

SN: “Working for Government has taught me perseverance, discipline and respect as I interact and work with diverse stakeholders across my professional spectrum.”

GC: “What advice would you have for someone who wants to work for Government?”

SN: “I would advise them to be acquainted with and respect Government Orders.”

GC: “What are your aspirations for the future in Government?”

SN: “I am passionate about creating a positive impact on society and the environment through my work. I aspire to work for Government because of her strong commitment to sustainability. I envision aligning my career with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and actively participating in Government social responsibility initiatives. I find immense fulfilment in contributing to a greener and more sustainable future, and I believe that my dedication to these causes will resonate with Government's values and mission.”



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