Roles of ZMD in National Development

Meteorological services have many benefits, including the prevention of loss of life, injury and damage to property and the environment. However, it is difficult to quantify and charge many of the socio-economic sectors that benefit from meteorological services. Civil aviation is probably the only sector where negative consequences of the weather are well documented. This is because the requirements of the sector are well known and understood, and there is efficient contact between the weatherman and aircrew both before and during flight.

To illustrate the usefulness of meteorological data and information to various sectors of Zambia's economy, a few examples are briefly discussed below.

Aviation: Air navigation is by by nature very sensitive to weather conditions, and meteorological information will remain an important factor in the planning and execution of flights. In fact, about 40% of all general aviation accidents resulting in one or more fatalities are weather-related. Therefore, the prompt and reliable supply of meteorological data and information is critical to the safety, efficiency and regularity of flight operations. Based on the weather information provided to them, aircrews are able to adjust: departure time, take-off weight, flight path and altitudes, reserve fuel, alternate aerodromes and landing weight.

Prior to the commencement of each Rainy Season, the ZMD issues a Seasonal Rainfall Forecast in order to provide some indication of the quality (timing and nature of the rains) of the coming season. Farmers use the forecast to choose the best planting date, cropping strategies, tillage practices, etc.

The Crop-Weather Bulletin discussed under Section 5.2 below, is a popular publication which helps farmers to follow the performance of the rainy season (e.g. as it related to dry spells, number of rainy days, etc) every ten days during the crop growing period.

Water Resources Management:
The design of drainage systems in towns and cities depends on past records of rainfall intensity. Special problems arise in the replacement or renewal of many civic facilities, e.g. storm water disposal systems, many of them designed and built many years ago, which must now be re-designed to cope with the changing patterns of runoff, due to the greater density of buildings and hard-paved areas, Knowledge of the quantity of water delivered by short heavy falls of rain is essential for such planning.

As regards hydropower generation, ZMD provides meteorological information to Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO) to assist them in planning their electrical power generation. Low water levels at both Kariba and Kafue Gorge arising from consumptive use and high evaporation rates can lead ZESCO to introduce load shedding, cease electricity production altogether, or import energy from a neighbouring country.

Scheduling of irrigation is more economical when meteorological data is used. The weather statistics often required are evaporation, air temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and sunshine duration.

Education and Research: climatological services to the “Education and Research” sector may lead to very important but  unknown future developments such that the economic value of climatological services and their social and political implications are difficult to express in monetary terms. This is especially true for the use of maps (incorporating weather variables) such as those in atlases, which may be used in a variety of ways not only by planners but also by educators and scientists.

In the Health sector, early warning can significantly reduce the impacts of natural disasters. Such information is extremely valuable for for decision-making. For instance, if above normal rainfall is anticipated, health and veterinary authorities may take measures to stockpile drugs to control life threatening and costly epidemics such as cholera, malaria and foot and month disease. Outbreaks of such diseases adversely affect economic development, trade, tourism, agriculture, etc.

Building and Civil Engineering: No building or bridge can be designed economically without knowledge of weather elements such as wind, temperature, rainfall, etc. Feasibility studies, which are often undertaken prior to any major civil engineering works, always incorporate this information, which can be critical in deciding whether or not a particular project can go ahead.

Since engineering systems or structures must withstand some recurring climatic extreme, e.g. strong winds (otherwise the structures would fail or collapse), The meteorologist will give an estimate of this extreme, besides providing the basic statistics. In the case where there are plans to harness the wind, to provide low-cost power, meteorological data is used to determine whether it is of sufficient force or regularity to generate sufficient power.