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FEATURE: Sharing knowledge on Ethiopia’s extreme weather attribution

The Raising Risk Awareness initiative applies state-of-the-art science to extreme weather events in order to determine whether climate change has played a role, how often such events are likely to happen in the future, and how decision-makers can better plan to handle these. A key aspect to the initiative is the collaborative efforts between local and international researchers, knowledge brokers, and those working with the most affected people. Dr Abiy Zegeye of Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia travelled to Oxford University in January to learn the latest attribution methods. He discusses his experience with CDKN Africa’s Claire Mathieson.


Attribution analyses allow scientists to determine whether an extreme weather event was the result of climate change. As part of the pilot phase, the 2015 drought in Ethiopia was selected as a cold case study to see to what degree climate change had an amplifying effect. The project has included Addis Ababa University and the National Meteorology Agency (Ethiopia) to help provide local data and context. For Dr Abiy Zegeye, the partnership has been mutually beneficial as he was able to travel to Oxford University to learn more about attribution methodology.

“My primary interest in travelling to Oxford was to get a good grasp of weather attribution science as a whole with particular interest in the modelling and model validation component,” said Dr Zegeye. The faculty member of Addis Ababa University is also attached to the Institute of Biotechnology, the African Centre for Disaster Risk Management and the Climate Science Centre. “My primary role is that of an expert in Disaster Risk Management with related work in environmental management systems and greenhouse gas accounting.” But why would an Ethiopian scientist need to work with Raising Risk Awareness to learn more about Ethiopian climatic events?

“Currently, we do not do any type of weather attribution work. This is a fairly new science which we hope to bring to bear on the work that we are already heavily engaged in.” This, he said, includes disaster risk management and climate reconstruction, and environmental impact assessment: with broader implications on policy, training, knowledge management and the like.

Dr Zegeye said he was able to learn first hand the mechanics of setting up and running weather attribution models. He said the experience was an “excellent entry point and a valuable addition to my own set of skills”.

“I was able to get a good sense of the many types of research and other work being carried out by the Environmental Change Institute of Oxford University. This was an excellent opportunity to network and pave the way for future collaboration.” He plans to pass along his learnings to colleagues at home. “I plan to work closely with my friends from the National Meteorology Agency to perform contextualised weather attribution modelling work that will serve as the basis for sound data driven decision-making in anticipating, planning for and implementation of climate induced disaster risks.”

The results of the study will provide critical information to help Ethiopian decision-makers and the public to better prepare for similar kinds of extremes.

“I do expect to apply what I have gained to the local context in Ethiopia, particularly with respect to bringing the science to bear on policy and decision-making. Not only applying it locally, but to also partake in and contribute to the wider effort of weather attribution science.”

Read more about the Raising Risk Awareness initiative here.


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