Scientists monitoring the movements of the worst locust outbreak in Kenya in 70 years are hopeful that a new tracking program they will be able to prevent a second surge of the crop-ravaging insects. From a report: The UN has described the locust outbreak in the Horn of Africa, and the widespread breeding of the insects in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia that has followed, as “extremely alarming.” The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization has warned that an imminent second hatch of the insects could threaten the food security of 25 million people across the region as it enters the cropping season. Kenneth Mwangi, a satellite information scientist, based at the Intergovernmental Authority on Development climate prediction and applications centre, based in Nairobi, said researchers were running a supercomputer model to predict breeding areas that may have been missed by ground monitoring. These areas could become sources of new swarms if not sprayed.
“The model will be able to tell us the areas in which hoppers are emerging,” said Mwangi. “We will also get ground information. These areas can become a source of an upsurge, or a new generation of hoppers. It becomes very difficult and expensive to control, which is why we are looking to prevent an upsurge. The focus will be on stopping hoppers becoming adults, as that leads to another cycle of infestation. We want to avoid that. We want to advise governments early, before an upsurge happens.” So far, the supercomputer, funded by $45 million of UK aid as part of its Weather and Climate Information Services for Africa programme, has successfully forecast the movement of locusts using data such as wind speed and direction, temperature, and humidity. The model has achieved 90% accuracy in forecasting the future locations of the swarms, Mwangi said.
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