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Why media ought to strengthen climate and weather forecast reporting

climate

By Eric Ndung’u

When was the last time you watched or listened to a proper weather forecast in a Kenan media station? Did it come to pass? We have reported excitations ofver El Niño, predicted to start from October. Farmers have been preparing. There are warnings on possible flooding. But the forecast has been revised down to heavy rains. What if it does not happen?

Well, only KBC Channel 1, Nganyi Ranet (25-30km radius) and Kangemi FM (25km radius) stand out for sustained specialised weather forecast reporting. However, the popularity to some of the segments is dwindling, thus in need of regeneration.

Notably, the conversation across media has shifted towards what is becoming standard climate reporting majorly across news items, with the responsibility to understand weather forecast left to our hand gadgets, Safari and Goggle. How many Kenyans are aware that the Kenya Meteorological Department issues a seven-day weather forecast? If aware, can they access the information at their convenience?

The Met generates and disseminates weather and climate information to various users that include the public, specialised economic sectors, and marine services. This begs the question: Is there space for weather forecasts in our media stations and if there is, what benefits accrue from such?

Who informs Kenyans about the weather today? Is it going to be sunny to help me decide what to wear, or what is the forecast for the week to decide whether I will buy additional clothing? The media ought to be at the service of Kenyans on such a pertinent issue, especially when the planet is experiencing unprecedented extreme weather conditions and events such as wildfires, heat waves, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, floods, and drought.

The Met Office, United Kingdom’s national weather service, points out that the media plays a crucial role in keeping everyone informed about the latest weather forecasts and the potential for any severe weather, helping people to make better decisions and to stay safe.

Besides the typical climate change reportage, majorly on conferences and government policy, according to World Meteorological Organization the media ought to regularly inform us about the temperatures and other weather conditions that we feel on our skin and plan our day around, because they know how to explain weather and climate in a useful and interesting way.

In context, Kenya’s state of weather forecast reporting is considerably low and heavily skewed towards climate reporting. The presumed neglect witnessed on our local media stations, across broadcast and print, might be the result of failure to recognise the financial worth of the programme and lack of a culture of weather forecasting across the country.

Global media trends indicate high regard placed on weather reports by brands such as Al Jazeera, BBC, Sky News, France 24 and many others. The broadcasts play a key role especially in revenue generation, with sponsored weather reports, and maintaining a climate and weather conscious societies.

Besides, there are dedicated routine climate segments and documentaries across the world on changing weather conditions, for example Al Jazeera’s Planet SOS and DW’s Planet A. Therefore, this indicates weather is a lifeline topic. The delegation of weather reporting in the country and the continent to international media brands and social media corporations does not align with the agenda to raise the bar in tackling climate change and having a weather conscious populace.

Weather forecast report with Al Jazeera Jeff Harrington August 30, 2023.

Thus, local media ought to strengthen our climate and weather forecast reporting, moving beyond occasional reporting to daily weather forecasts and properly researched segments on climatic conditions and impacts of climate change.

This requires investment and not overdependence on government sources. It should go into media enterprises’ strategic/business plans as a revenue generation mechanism and a social responsibility. Consequently, this would indirectly support the government agenda on environmental sustainability, with detailed reports on government policies like tree planting & monitoring progress, pushing for an African agenda in climate reparations, mitigation, and adaptation. Such efforts would be timely following recent variations in weather patterns such as drought, delayed rainfall, extended cold seasons.

Writer is research officer at MCK

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