From the Editor: Climate change impacts international Indigenous knowledge on weather forecasting

Indigenous weather and climate knowledge has been highly recognized as essential for decision making in farming. (Pixabay)

Indigenous weather and climate knowledge has been highly recognized as essential for decision making in farming. (Pixabay)

Before the development of atmospheric instruments like doppler radars, satellites, and automated surface-observing systems, folks relied on nature to predict upcoming weather. Even though Indigenous knowledge on environmental cycles was proven useful, they have been overlooked.

Indigenous communities around the world use things like the moon, plants, and animals to predict weather conditions. Knowledge of environmental predictions is still commonly used among Indigenous farmers in rural areas where access to technological information on weather forecasting is limited or unavailable.

A 2021 paper exploring the need of incorporating Indigenous knowledge systems into modern weather forecasting methods, found that Indigenous knowledge system forecasts are usually based on local biophysical and mystical knowledge gained through decades of working in a specific area.

People have been combining Indigenous knowledge with forecasting methods for years, like in 2008, when the Bunyore community in Western Province of Kenya partnered with the government to produce a consensus forecast for the local area. The partnership was implemented to protect the community’s tiny forest of Nganyi from climate change.

Indigenous weather and climate knowledge has been highly recognized as essential for decision making in farming, according to an article on Indigenous knowledge for environmental prediction in the Pacific Island countries. This knowledge has also been sourced in areas such as disaster risk reduction and planning.

These practices, which have been used for decades, are slowly fading because of the implementation of other weather prediction methods. 

With the increase in randomized weather patterns due to climate change, there is a decrease in the ability to predict weather and seasonal climate forecasts.

The abrupt changes in weather patterns also interrupt the use in ethno-meteorology, a science that studies the weather traditions of different ethnic groups around the world.  

The forest of Nganyi lies in one acre of land and was highly used by the Indigenous Bunyore community to predict weather conditions for generations. With the use of the forest, the community has gained an expertise on weather reading and rain-making.

However, the community “has admitted that the present global warming associated with climate change has become a daunting challenge facing them in their agricultural activities,” according to a report on ethno-meteorology and scientific weather forecasting that was published in Climate Risk Management, a climate science journal.

Hail, rain, and heat have been present this spring in Metro Vancouver due to randomized weather patterns. 

It’s important to consider the different aspects in which climate change impacts what used to be traditional Indigenous knowledge of weather prediction as it shows how the changing climate affects the ability for Indigenous farmers to harvest their crops and continue their livelihoods. 

A 2019 study published on the Afar, one of the largest pastoral groups in the Horn of Africa, predicts weather and climate by observing livestock, insects, birds, trees, and wildlife.

However, the Afar now has a hybrid format of weather forecasting. The study described how the Afar include modern weather forecasting through their local radios and government news media, but they don’t take the information directly as they also make comparisons with their local conditions and local bio-physical observations.

Indigenous knowledge on weather forecasting hasn’t completely disappeared as it can still prove useful when combined with modern forecasting practices. However, climate change is still the biggest obstacle to the effectiveness of all kinds of weather forecasting.