Rhodesians download satellite maps
to forecast the weather – in 1967!
“A major breakthrough in the field of Rhodesian forecasting”. This is how Mr. J. Kreft, officer in charge of the central forecast office at the Belvedere meteorological station in Salisbury, described the reception and recording by Salisbury meteorologists of weather patterns transmitted by the United States weather satellites, Nimbus, Essall and Essa IV.
Meteorological Office technicians now regularly record the pulses emitted by weather satellites, particularly Nimbus II, as they pass over southern Africa – but instead of using the sophisticated equipment designed for the purpose which may be imported from Britain or America at a cost of between £10 000 and £18 000, they use equipment designed, constructed and adapted in their own workshops at a cost of less than £200.
At negligible expense, Rhodesian forecasters have at their fingertips a picture of the cloud patterns existing over the whole of southern Africa and Malagasy and far down into the depths of the Southern Ocean and Antarctica – the source of much of southern Africa’s weather. As if from a platform floating some 500 to 750 miles above the surface of the earth, they are able to look down on a precise pattern of cloud formations which, to their trained and experienced eyes, tell fascinating stories of the movement of warm and cold fronts and the birth of tropical cyclones.
Outside Rhodesia, Kenya is believed to be the only country in Africa at present tapping the information available from the American weather satellites as they cross and re-cross the skies of this continent. The weather pictures recorded in Salisbury are made freely available to forecasting stations in other parts of the sub-continent.
One illustration shows part of a weather pictures recorded. The other shows a radar technician adjusting the aerial used to intercept satellite transmissions. Coastlines and place names have been blocked in for reproduction purposes, although in the original picture the coastline was clearly visible.
At the time the his photograph was taken, holidaymakers on Durban’s beaches were basking in bright sunshine. Rhodesia’s south-east was experiencing “guti” conditions (cool, drizzly weather).