Friday 18 November 2022

Climate field research in North-west Zambia: DRYCAB Project

Keble undergraduates, postgraduates and academic staff were involved in joint climate science fieldwork in North West Zambia between August and November 2022. The aim of the work was to gather a comprehensive set of measurements of how the weather just south of the Congo Basin transitions from the long dry season to the onset of the early summer rains.

Second Year Keble undergraduate, Chris Edmunds, recipient of RGS award and generous KA funding, prepares a weather balloon

Climate change is expected to impose a considerable burden on the southern African region as it is one of two land-based areas of the planet where large-scale drying is projected to occur in future decades. A lot of the early summer drying is expected to result from the late onset of the rains after the six month long dry season. However much of what we know depends entirely on models rather than observations. The point of the fieldwork was to sharpen our understanding of what the atmosphere really does.

Two second year students from Keble, Chris Edmunds and Alice Jardine, won Royal Geographical Society funding to join in with the NERC funded research programme. Chris and Alice were also generously supported by the Keble Association. Charlie Knight (Keble Geography, 2022, now a first year DPhil student also at Keble) was one of two postgraduates taking part in the campaign.

The fieldwork involved setting up two Lidar systems, one at Solwezi and one at Sakeji Mission School near Ikelenge in far NW Zambia. A total of 800 radiosondes were also released on a 3-hourly timetable, 400 at Nchila (about 3 km from Sakeji) and 400 from Solwezi. A string of automatic weather stations was established in an arc between the two core sites of Nchila and Solwezi. The Keble field team was based at Nchila where they enjoyed peaceful surrounds without electricity for two months. The Zambian Meteorological Department ran the radiosonde station and Lidar system at Solwezi under the able leadership of Wallace Kasongo.

The Oxford team is deeply indebted to Edson Nkonde, Director of the Zambian Meteorological Department and his deputies Mr Felix Imbwae and Col Rodney Mulenga. Many thanks to Mark Ronald and Doug Hanna at Sakeji School and to Pete Fisher, Hillwood Farm.

Second year SoGE undergraduates, Alice Jardine (also recipient of RGS and KA funding) and Chris Edmunds, release a weather balloon at Nchila Camp, NW Zambia

Balloon release at Sakeji Mission School

First year DPhil student, formerly Keble undergraduate, winner of H.O.Beckit prize in 2022, Charlie Knight with a radiosonde at Nchila Camp, NW Zambia

First year DPhil student, formerly SoGE undergraduate, winner of H.O.Beckit prize in 2022, Charlie Knight in the ‘office’ at Nchila Camp, NW Zambia

Oxford team in the Democratic Republic of Congo, left to right: Chris Edmunds (second year Keble undergraduate), Dr Callum Munday (DRYCAB postdoc and former lecturer at Keble), Dr Sebastian Engelstaedter (SoGE staff), Kitty Attwood (SoGE graduate 2022, now Oxford DTP), Alice Jardine (second year Keble undergraduate)

Richard Washington cooking dinner on a wood stove, Nchila Camp, NW Zambia

Clouds building over Angola, from Nchila Camp, NW Zambia

Storms over Angola, from Nchila Camp, NW Zambia