April 8, 2024
4 Min. Read


EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW Incredible heat, endless rains – has the weather gone crazy? THE FUMBA TIMES editor-in-chief Andrea Tapper asked a man who knows a lot about the climate in Zanzibar: Hassan Khatib Ame, 44, head meteorologist at the international airport.

THE FUMBA TIMES: Am I wrong, or has it been even hotter and more humid in the last weeks and months than usual?

Meteorologist Hassan K. Ame: You are not wrong. Zanzibar is getting warmer and we are feeling it. It’s the result of climate change. The consequences are measurable, also here in Zanzibar.

What is your forecast for this rainy season? 

Masika, as the rains are called, is expected to be normal to above normal, and starting early.

The weather app on my phone predicted a whole week of 34-35 degree Celsius at the end of February. For a human being, this is almost fever temperature.

Don’t rely only on your weather app! We have robust scientific data indicating the same. In January and February, Zanzibar often had 32-34 degree Celsius at noon with peaks of up to 37°. 

Too hot, indeed! 

The curve is going up. 

Local scientists have warned about “an existence of climate shift in Zanzibar since 2005” in a study published last year. Maximum temperatures have risen up to 1.6%, minimum temperatures up to 7.1% in Unguja and Pemba in that period, the study says.

According to our data at the airport the average yearly temperature has risen by about 0.5 degree Celsius in total since 2005. A drastic change happened in 2016, when the curve jumped up by three degrees.

A warming-up by less than one degree in almost 20 years seems not much.

This assumption is wrong. The trend in Zanzibar mirrors exactly the trend in global warming. The current warming by about 0.2° Celsius per decade is happening at a rate not seen in the past 10,000 years. Therefore, all climate conferences have one goal: to keep global warming under a two-degree rise, which is considered the critical threshold above which dangerous effects for humans and the earth will occur.

What effects do we see in Zanzibar already?

Increase in extreme weather, such as heavy rains. Storms. Contamination of groundwater by salt water in low areas. All this has effects on agriculture, on coastal erosion and ultimately on the livelihood of people. However,  compared to other regions in Africa, Zanzibar is still a safe haven. The Horn of Africa was badly affected by drought between 2020-2023. Congo and Mozambique experienced terrible flooding due to tropical cyclones. But lying close to the equator, we do not experience such cyclones in Zanzibar. Neither do we face drought here. 

 Still, the rains seem unpredictable! Last November it was raining throughout…

The weather is not unpredictable. Already in August last year we meteorologists were aware that the rains would be long and heavy and we issued a statement accordingly.

Were the recent heavy rains a result of climate change?

Yes, but not only. El Nino also played a role. El Nino is an unusual warming of the Central Pacific Ocean which can bring seasonal and nonseasonal heavy rains like last November. Another weather phenomenon causing the heavy rains is the so-called Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) when the Western Indian Ocean is warmer than the Eastern Indian Ocean. Climate change contributes to all of this.

Tell us a bit about your work at the airport.

With a team of about 30 meteorologists we provide weather services and forecasts 24/7, every 30 minutes, for the tower and every departing and arriving plane, from a small Cessna to a Boeing. We work under the Tanzania Meteorological Authority (TMA) and inform the Zanzibar Airport Authority (ZAA) who takes the decisions.

In colder countries airports sometimes shut down due to snow and ice. Has Zanzibar ever been closed due to bad weather?

Not exactly shut down. But during a strong thunder shower no flight should land or take-off. On 5 November last year the airport authorities redirected a Condor arriving from Germany to land in Dar es Salaam following our warnings. Thunderstorms can cause poor visibility, turbulence and dangerous crosswinds – too dangerous for landings and take-off.

Zanzibar is an island. The same goes probably for boats?

Yes, exactly. Our colleagues from the Zanzibar Marine Weather Service advised the Zanzibar Marine Authority to stop several fast ferries also due to heavy storms and bad weather.  When the wind is stronger than 20 knots (40 km/h), we usually do this… 

The weather seems to play with us.

We must be ready and prepared for more severe weather. Extreme weather is one of the main effects of climate change. That can reach from heavy storms to prolonged rains, but also to longer periods of heat.

What can we do against it?

Adequate measures have to be taken and are being taken, from coastal protection to building precautions, to planting trees. We must also try to lower CO2 emissions as much as possible. When you look at the consequences – it’s better to understand the weather!
More information: meteo.go.tz

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