Dr Alistair Clulow and Dr Tafadzwa Mabhaudhi of UKZN have been the driving force behind the recent installation of a state-of-the-art automatic weather station (AWS) at Swayimane High School in Wartburg in KwaZulu-Natal.
This is one of only two off-campus installations of UKZN’s lauded Agrometeorological Instrumentation Mast (AIM) system.
The AWS forms part of an agrometeorological early warning system that is being developed by UKZN as part of Component 1.3 of the uMngeni Resilience Project - a climate change adaptation project funded by the Adaption Fund and implemented by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) in partnership with the uMgungundlovu District Municipality and UKZN.
In a statement, uMgungundlovu Municipal Spokesperson Ms Mbali Ndlovu said the district municipality was located in an area of high climate change risk and one of three climate change hotspots in the country.
She said climate change studies were carried out and the decision was taken to create the uMngeni Resilience Project. The project would help reduce the vulnerability of communities and small-scale farmers within the district.
The purpose of installing the automatic weather station was to link the collection of weather data to learning and e-learning at Swayimane High School through UKZN’s School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences.
The station is capable of collecting meteorological information using maximum and minimum temperature; maximum and minimum relative humidity; wind speed and direction; solar radiation, rainfall and reference evapotranspiration (the process by which water is transferred from the land to the atmosphere by evaporation from the soil and other surfaces and by transpiration from plants).
The system is also connected to leaf wetness sensors and soil water content sensors that can be used to predict disease incidence and flooding.
The system would also spread weather bulletins to farmers through SMS and email on a weekly basis, and give heat discomfort warnings for farmers so they knew when to avoid being out in the field, when it was too wet to plant, or when the possibility of disease was high.
A webpage for the system will be run and developed by Swayimane pupils.