Minister Molewa launches North West University Lekwena Weather Radar in Potchefstroom

22 March 2018

The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, has officially launched a state-of-the-art North West University (NWU) Lekwena Weather Radar, a weather radar network that provides a high-end scientific tool to study and quantify storms and precipitation.  The launch took place in Potchefstroom today, Thursday 22 March 2018, a day before the international community commemorates the World Meteorological Day, marked annually on 23 March. This year’s theme is “weather-ready, climate-smart.”

Weather and climate impact every aspect of society. The weather radar is the quintessential tool for observing thunderstorms in real-time and using this information to manage and mitigate the impact of this hazard. South Africa has a long history in radar science and currently boasts a world-class national network of cutting edge radars operated by the South African Weather Service (SAWS). This project aims to support SAWS towards sustaining and making the most of this valuable resource.

Students from multiple disciplines will get hands-on experience working with this technology, creating awareness around the benefits and potential use of weather radar, and lastly to do applied research that could help create products and services that can be rolled out on the national radar network. Providing scientists access to this technology in a semi-operational, real-time environment will narrow the gap between research and operations and ensure that new services make their way to the national radar network.

In our National Intended Contribution tabled with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2016, South Africa committed to enhance its early warning system. The enhancement of early warning systems, protecting local communities from extreme weather events, and promoting climate smart agriculture practices are important  in an era where we are working as a government through the National Development Plan to transition the country to an environmentally stable, climate change resilient, low-carbon economy and a just society by 2030.  

“With climate change as a major concern globally and South Africa specifically, every effort should be made to monitor and understand its drivers and triggers in order to develop and implement evidence-based mitigation and adaptation strategies,” says Minister Molewa. 

“The radar will not only assist our researchers and scientists, but all South Africans as it will provide real-time data that will be interpreted into usable information pertaining to climate change and weather conditions. This radar technology brings a substantially improved weather observation network for our country,” Minister Molewa added.

Because the monitoring and forecasting of the climate and weather monitoring has huge implications for a number of sectors including agriculture and water resources, the results from the NWU Lekwena Radar are expected to have real world socio-economic impact on issues such as flash flooding, drought and other weather-related events.

Minister Molewa added that the launch of the radar is crucial towards ensuring that the local community has access to climate information so people are able to improve their readiness to respond to the early warnings that will be issued.

The Lekwena Radar Climate Change Monitoring Programme is relevant to the implementation of the National Framework on Climate Services (NFCS), which is in its final stages, and was developed by the Department of Environmental Affairs in collaboration with the South African Weather Service. 

The overarching goal of the NFCS is to enable better management of the risks of climate variability and change at all levels, through development and incorporation of science-based climate information and prediction services into planning, policy and practice. 

The success of the NWU Lekwena Weather Radar will result in the development of a technology to calibrate the entire radar network and to develop capacity on rainfall estimation in South Africa.

Access the » Minister’s speech

For media queries, contact:
Albi Modise (Department of Environmental Affairs)
Cell: 083 490 2871 |

Wandile Nomquphu (Water Research Commission)
Cell: 072 592 7530

Roelof Burger (North West University)
Cell: 082 563 9776

Jointly issued by the Department of Environmental Affairs, Water Research Commission and the North West University