UK supercomputer set to help fight African locust outbreak

Picture of a locust on a branch

A supercomputer funded by UK aid is now being used to help predict locust movements in East Africa that are destroying crops. By knowing where the locusts will move next, residents will have an early warning to prepare themselves. The region is currently experiencing the worst locust outbreak in 70 years.

Climate experts are using the supercomputer which is based in the regional climate centre in Kenya (ICPAC). It uses satellite data to track the swarms but also produces weather forecasts to predict high winds, rainfall, and humidity; this data allows the experts to figure out where the locusts will go next to breed, giving residents in the area time to protect their crops.

With the data in hand, the UK is also providing £5 million to an emergency UN appeal which will help cover the costs of locust surveillance and aerial pesticides in countries such as Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, and Tanzania. With this support, farmers will have a much better chance at defending 78,000 hectares of land from the insects.

The supercomputer, which will help predict the locusts’ movements, is provided through the Department for International Development’s Weather and Climate Information Services for Africa (WISER) programme, in collaboration with the UK Met Office and the Africa Climate Policy Centre.

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