Building Missing Weather Data

Elizabeth Borneman


Rwanda is a country that is missing weather data for a period of about 15 years. The country once had a record of its weather that was gathered by locals in various parts of the country, but many of these volunteers were killed during the Rwandan genocide and the scientific measuring stations destroyed.

Rwanda is known as the land of a thousand hills, and weather can be very different depending on location. These weather reports can help farmers know what kinds of plants to grow and where they would be most fertile. For a country still recovering from a devastating civil war and genocide, something as simple as tracking weather patterns can fall by the wayside.

The country is attempting to restart its weather tracking stations by rebuilding them in the locations where they once were and recruiting more volunteers to collect the data.  The Rwandan government has only recently begun to fund weather tracking operations, and as of 2010 more attention has been paid to gathering this data.

Average number of reporting weather stations in Rwanda during 1981 to 2013. Note the drastic drop in 1994. (Data source: Dinku et. al, 2016)
Average number of reporting weather stations in Rwanda during 1981 to 2013. Note the drastic drop in 1994. (Data source: Dinku et. al, 2016)

Scientists from Colombia University and other institutes around the world are pooling their knowledge and resources to put the pieces back together in Rwanda’s missing weather data set. Called the ENACTS (Enhancing National Climate Services) initiative, scientists are using satellite data in order to estimate rainfall, temperature, and other information about the 15 year gap.

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The missing data set is slowing being put back together. Researchers hope that the missing information could help farmers and others in Rwanda be able to better predict what the next year’s weather will bring using historical data. Right now the country, like other parts of the world, is being impacted by an abnormal El Nino season, which affects agricultural practices. Getting Rwanda’s weather gathering stations back up and running could help continue moving the country forward.


Fiondella, R.  New Climate Services Program in Rwanda Aims to Reach One Million Farmers.  International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), Columbia University.

The ENACTS Approach: Transforming climate services in Africa one country at a time.  A World Policy Paper, March 2016.

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About the author
Elizabeth Borneman
My name is Elizabeth Borneman and I am a freelance writer, reader, and coffee drinker. I live on a small island in Alaska, which gives me plenty of time to fish, hike, kayak, and be inspired by nature. I enjoy writing about the natural world and find lots of ways to flex my creative muscles on the beach, in the forest, or down at the local coffee shop.